Assembly Series spring 2011 schedule announced

Eclectic lineup includes Julian Bond, Rebecca Skloot and Strobe Talbott

The Washington University in St. Louis community will have the opportunity to hear presentations by ethicists, public intellectuals, historians, authors, prominent academics, and major figures in today’s cultural milieu during the spring semester via the Assembly Series.

Now in its 58th year, the Assembly Series’ mission is to complement the academic enterprise by presenting individuals who are, have been, or will be significant in their fields.

The following is a list of spring speakers, with a few more likely to be added. All Assembly Series programs are free and open to the public, although seating may be limited for specific programs.

Assembly Series programs are continually being updated. For the most current information, visit or call (314) 935-4620.

Dan Senor, “Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Miracle,” 6 p.m. Feb. 2, Graham Chapel


Conventional wisdom says that only large, stable, rich countries can become entrepreneurial powerhouses. But if that’s true, how did the young, small nation of Israel, with no natural resources and in constant conflict with neighboring countries, produce more start-up companies in high-tech fields than Japan, China or India?

Senor, co-author of Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle and adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, will share the unique circumstances he thinks have contributed to create the perfect environment for Israel’s flourishing entrepreneurial business sector.

This is the Washington University Students for Israel Lecture. Co-sponsors include the Jewish Student Union, Chabad Student Association, St. Louis Hillel at Washington University, Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, and the Olin Business School. Also sponsoring the event are the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel Business and Technology Committee and the Mildred Herbert and Julian Simon Foundation.

Bryan Stevenson, “Poverty, Incarceration and Injustice in America,” Noon Feb. 3, Anheuser-Busch Hall, Moot Courtroom (Rm. 310)

Consider this statistic from the Equal Justice Initiative website: Since 1972, 130 Americans on death row have been exonerated, which means that one in eight people who have been executed in this country may have been innocent.

Stevenson, JD, has produced plenty of evidence showing that the administration of the death penalty is permeated with mistaken identities and racial bias. Since 1989, Stevenson has directed the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law organization that focuses on social justice and human rights issues in the U.S. criminal justice system.

This program is part of the WUSTL School of Law Public Interest Law and Policy Speakers Series (PILPSS). For a list of other PILPSS speakers, visit the website

Strobe Talbott, “Angels of Our Nature: Polarization in America and Its Challenge to Universities and Think Tanks,” 4 p.m. Feb. 7, Whitaker Hall Auditorium

Brookings Institution President and statesman Talbott will deliver a policy address regarding the challenge of today’s polarization in American politics, now at its worst level since the late 19th century.

In reviewing the factors driving this current climate, Talbott will explain the urgency of the problem and its implications for pressing public policy challenges. As head of a prominent think tank, he sees the role of universities and think tanks — bastions of fact-based research and academic freedom — as an antidote to the animosity permeating our society.

This program is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Provost. Co-sponsors include the Brookings Institution, and WUSTL’s School of Law, Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering & Applied Science, Olin Business School, WUSTL D.C. Programs, the Department of Political Science in Arts & Sciences, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, and the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics.

Hamid Dabashi, “The End of an Islamic Republic,” 5 p.m. Feb. 10, Steinberg Hall Auditorium

As the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran looms large, the international community, and especially the United States, is faced with limited options for the prospect of peace.

But inside Iran, according to Iranian scholar Dabashi, PhD, the republic is grappling with the powerful Green Movement, which arose from the disputed Iranian election in 2009 and the brutal repression of its citizens.

In his most recent book, Iran, The Green Movement and the USA: The Fox and the Paradox, Dabashi considers Iran’s geopolitics as well as its internal politics, addresses the tumultuous relationship between Iran and the United States, and suggests the best course of action for peace in the region.

This is the Iranian Cultural Society Lecture.

Sean Wilentz, “Andrew Jackson’s Proclamation on Nullification,” 5 p.m. Feb. 22, Women’s Building Formal Lounge


As the invited speaker to deliver this year’s “President’s Week” lectures, Princeton historian Wilentz, PhD, will give three talks covering the most important political figures governing the three great transformations of the mid-19th century.

The lectures begin with an overview of the role these presidents — Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant — played in advancing democratic nationalism, which in turn led to the abolition of slavery.

His lecture on Jackson kicks off the mini-series, followed by the second lecture Feb. 23 on Abraham Lincoln’s role and the final talk Feb. 24 concentrating on Grant’s contributions.

All lectures will be held at 5 p.m. in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. This is the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities and the Center for the Humanities Lecture.

Ernest Adams, “Single Player, Multiplayer, MMOG: Design Psychologies for Different Social Contexts,” 6 p.m. Feb. 24. Location to be determined


Electronic gaming is here to stay, whether they are played online, on a computer, or on a console. No one understands this better than Adams, a giant in game design and development whose credits include the Madden NFL Football series.

But all games are not equal, and what makes them different is the designer’s ability to understand how people play and what makes a game more satisfying to play than others. Adams’ presentation will consider the importance of understanding the different psychologies that underpin games.

This is the WU Game Developers Society Lecture.

Jimmy Wales, “Democracy and the Internet,” 6 p.m. March 22, Graham Chapel


In 1999, Wales set out to transform the concept of the encyclopedia and adapt it for the Internet age. Instead of creating entries the traditional way — giving the tasks to subject experts — he opened it up to anyone willing to contribute.

Despite predictions that chaos would ensue, it didn’t, thanks to a software program called a wiki. Wales added a feature that allowed anyone to track and edit existing entries, ushering in a radical populist approach.

Today, a mere decade later, Wikipedia has about 16 million entries made by 91,000 contributors, available in 270 languages, making it the largest reference site on the web, and making Wales one of the founding fathers of social media.

This is the keynote address for the Global Leadership Conference.

Rebecca Skloot, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” 4 p.m. March 23, Graham Chapel


When a poor African-American woman died of cervical cancer in 1951, no one could have foreseen the magnitude of her contribution to medicine. Thus begins Skloot’s intriguing medical saga in her debut book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Cancer cells taken from Henrietta’s body without her knowledge or her permission became the world’s first replicating human cell line. Research from these cells launched a medical revolution and generated spectacular medical discoveries and treatments.

Her poignant story covers this terrain while also examining the personal ordeal of the Lacks family, who were never told of Henrietta’s gift, never received any compensation, and who today cannot afford health insurance.

WUSTL co-sponsors include Diversity Initiatives, the Woman’s Club of Washington University, African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences, the Department of Education in Arts & Sciences, University Libraries, the Social Justice Center, Government and Community Relations, and the School of Law. Additional sponsors are the Missouri History Museum and the Academy of Sciences.

Frank Warren, “The Most Trusted Stranger in America: Frank Warren’s PostSecrets,” 6 p.m. March 29, Graham Chapel


This is the story of a tiny art project that became an international sensation through the simple distribution of postcards. In 2004, Warren, bored with his job, placed hundreds of blank postcards around his community, inviting persons to divulge their innermost secrets through words and art, and mail them back to him.

When the postcards began returning in droves, he was amazed by the confessions and personal statements, which ranged from sentimental to heartbreaking, and matched in emotion by some of the most creative artwork he had ever seen.

Now, with five books, a traveling exhibition, and one of the most visited blogs on the web, Warren provides a conduit to the world, allowing anyone to communicate their feelings, share the pain of a buried secret and experience the cathartic nature of healing from its exposure.

This is the Association of Mixed Students Lecture.

Julian Bond, “Post Racial America: Fact or Fiction?” 11 a.m. April 1, Graham Chapel


Bond arguably is the best person to weigh in on the current state of racial relations. As a teenager, the civil rights leader helped create the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the organization that advanced the movement to such a profound extent that they succeeded in integrating Atlanta’s movie theatres, lunch counters and parks.

For more than four decades, Bond has been advancing the civil rights cause and has been on the cutting edge of social change as an activist, politician, civil rights leader, university professor and author.

This is the keynote address for the Chancellor’s Fellowship Conference. At 2 p.m., a panel discussion to further explore the points made in Bond’s talk will be held in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge.

Additional events will take place on March 31 and include a presentation on research and a panel discussion on “Navigating a Career in Academia” featuring WUSTL faculty of color.

Soledad O’Brien, “Diversity: On TV, Behind the Scenes and in Our Lives,” 5 p.m. April 5, Graham Chapel


O’Brien has been America’s eyewitness to some of the most significant events on this planet since joining CNN in 2003. Her reports on Hurricane Katrina, the Southeast Asian tsunami, and the London terrorist attacks, to name a few, have garnered a large and faithful following, as well as a number of prestigious journalism awards.

But perhaps her most lasting contribution is her award-winning special series and documentaries on our changing nation. To address the dearth of reporting on communities of color and to fight the status quo reporting of stereotypes, O’Brien has created compelling stories with lasting value, most notably the “Black in America” and the “Latino in America” series.

This is the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Association of Black Students.

Andrew Stewart, 4 p.m. April 7, Steinberg Hall Auditorium

Stewart is a world-renowned authority on Greek sculpture, ancient art and architecture, and archaeology, and is known for his ability to place the creation of art in relation to the political, social, cultural, and intellectual issues of their day.

Some of his most influential books include Greek Sculpture: An Exploration; Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece; and Classical Greece and the Birth of Western Art.

This is the annual John and Penelope Biggs Lecture in the Classics.