On April 18, 2017, Jonathan Fanton introduced a discussion on the book “Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity and Democracy and a Prosperous Society.” The panel, introduced by Nancy Cantor and moderated by Liz Cheng, featured the following speakers: Danielle Allen, Earl Lewis, Deval Patrick (via video), and Amy Schulman.
The program was organized by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Good evening. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for a program organized by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The panelists here tonight will discuss the book edited by Earl Lewis and Nancy Cantor, Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society.
We are delighted that the Mellon Foundation selected the Academy as the New England venue for one of a series of conversations around the country on the issues raised in the book. The American Academy has been home to some notable projects over its history that addressed the issue of diversity in America, including ground-breaking scholarship in the 1970s on ethnicity, work on urban school desegregation, and comparative projects on ethnic pluralism and immigration in the United Kingdom, France, and China.
As Our Compelling Interests makes clear, America’s level of diversity is one of its most distinctive characteristics. Demographers predict that in 25 years the United States will have a majority non-white population. Diversity of all kinds—racial, socioeconomic, gender, religious, linguistic, regional, and sexual—has had a profound impact on American culture and institutions. Our Compelling Interests asks whether diversity is a goal worth pursuing, an opportunity to be leveraged, or a condition to be managed? Can we sustain a prosperous democratic society if there are particular groups that are excluded from the promises of equal political, social, and economic opportunity? How can our compelling interests as a nation be brought into alignment with the compelling interests of the many diverse groups of people who make up our population?