Assembly Series spring 2012: The need to connect

Popular lecture series begins Friday, Feb. 10, with acclaimed author/educator Parker Palmer

Something a bit different is being added to Washington University in St. Louis’ Assembly Series for the spring 2012 semester: It begins with a musical and spoken word event by two individuals who will use their combined wisdom and talents to deliver a message for the university community, and for the country.

Parker Palmer, PhD, best-selling author, educator and founder/senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, will deliver a lecture on “Healing the Heart of Democracy” at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, in Graham Chapel.

Later that night, at 8 p.m., Palmer will appear again with singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer, also in Graham Chapel, in a musical spoken word performance titled “Healing the Heart of Democracy — A Gathering of Spirits for the Common Good.”

The Assembly Series will continue Feb. 24. While it might appear at first glance that the speakers for the spring semester have little in common, a closer look reveals an underlying theme in several programs that speaks to the inherent human need to connect mind and body with heart and soul, whether it be through music, humor, creativity or fun.

The spring 2012 schedule follows. All programs are free and open to the public.

Parker Palmer, “Healing the Heart of Democracy” 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, Graham Chapel


“We don’t want to know what we really know, because if we did, we’d have to change our lives.”

These words from Palmer reveal the underlying principle at work in his most recent book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.

It grew out of his own experience, a lifetime process to rid himself of illusions and discover “a workable reality.”

It’s a remedy that contains as much hope as reality, a hallmark of Palmer’s philosophy.

His enlightenment was hard won, and he draws upon his individual struggle to illustrate a parallel situation occurring in American society: In Healing the Heart of Democracy he pleads for our country — and the body politic — to understand that our very democracy is at stake, and it’s time to stare reality in the face and begin the healing process.

Although Palmer holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, his wisdom also springs from his Quaker faith. He has dedicated his life to teaching and learning, and helping others to achieve their full potential.

Through the “Courage to Lead” and “Courage to Teach” programs offered by the Center for Courage & Renewal, he has helped more than 40,000 people in service professions. He is a former senior associate of the American Association of Higher Education and now serves as senior adviser to the Fetzer Institute.

Palmer has published several books, including The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life; A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey toward an Undivided Life; and To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey.

In the lecture, Palmer will explore the meaning of democracy and how it can be restored to its highest values and deepest purpose. A book signing and reception will follow in Rettner Gallery, Lab Sciences Building.

Parker Palmer and Carrie Newcomer, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, Graham Chapel

Recognizing that music can open pathways into problems and possibilities that words alone cannot, Palmer has, for the second on-campus event, enlisted longtime friend Newcomer and “at-large” ambassador for the center to complement his message. Their goal is best expressed in Newcomer’s own words:


“Our music and spoken word event aims to integrate heart and mind, story and song. The presentation will be quietly counter-cultural as we speak the words of the poets, the prophets, and the dreamers, and sing music that comforts the heart and engages the mind.

“We hope to offer a reminder of the value and worth of our individual stories as well as the power of the gathered community when we agree to roll up our sleeves and work together for the common good,” she says.

With 15 albums to her credit, Newcomer is celebrated for her blend of rich alto, poetic lyricism and a unique spiritual perspective. She has toured with Alison Krauss and Union Station, has recorded songs with Mary Chapin Carpenter, and received a Grammy Award in 2003 for her song “I Should Have Known Better,” recorded by Nickel Creek.

Both events are sponsored by the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics, the Gephardt Institute for Public Service and the Office of Residential Life.

Reservations are encouraged for both events Feb. 10. To RSVP or for more information, call (314) 935-5285 or email with the words “Palmer Event” in the subject line. Information also is available at

Deanne Bell, 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, Lab Sciences 300

Inspiring the next generation of engineers is a mission televison host Bell embraces. In her work, she drives home her belief that engineering is critical to innovation.


Throughout her television career, the 2002 WUSTL graduate in mechanical engineering has been debunking stereotypes while showing how much fun engineers have.

She has appeared in the Peabody Award-winning PBS series “Design Squad,” Discovery Channel’s “SmashLab” and ESPN’s “Rise Up.” In National Geographic Channel’s “The Eygptian Job,” a tale of an ancient heist, Bell had to determine how giant slabs of rock were moved without anyone noticing.

In addition to her broadcast roles, Bell has designed optical navigation systems for the aerospace industry.

This event is sponsored by WUSTL student organizations EnCouncil, Engineers Without Borders and Student Union; the School of Engineering & Applied Science; and the Woman’s Club of Washington University.

Jeremy Rifkin, “The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World” Time TBA, Monday, Feb. 27, Graham Chapel


Rifkin is an influential social critic and economist widely consulted by governments around the globe. His numerous best-selling books that tackle large-scale issues such as the impact of new knowledge and new technology on daily life are also widely read.

In his latest book, The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Rifkin lays out his vision of the next great economic shift — a profound overhaul of society based on the power of emerging technologies with renewable energies — to create a new global paradigm.

Rifkin is delivering the annual Elliot H. Stein Lecture in Ethics.

James Boyle, “Cultural Agoraphobia: Why Most of What You Know About the Internet is Wrong” 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29, Anheuser-Busch Hall, Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom


On Jan. 18, Congress received a strong warning from online information providers that going forward with two pending anti-piracy bills would severely limit the Internet’s open, dynamic environment. That same day, the bills’ sponsors began backing down.

This is the latest salvo in the ongoing legal war that pits protection of intellectual property against the desire for unfettered access. But the Internet’s unique sharing properties make an already complicated subject even more so.

One of the leading scholars on the side of open access is Boyle, JD, whose research shows that ever tightening restrictions on reasonable access is preventing the world’s collection of intellectual and artistic concepts from entering the public domain, to the detriment of society.

This is the first of three talks by Boyle for the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities Lecture Series. The second and third programs are scheduled for 5 p.m. March 1 and 2 in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. For more information, visit

Amy Chua, “Tiger Mom” 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, Graham Chapel

When Chua’s candid memoir/child-rearing manual, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, hit the bookstands last year, it elicited strong reactions — both for and against the Yale law professor’s parental philosophy that patterns itself on the Chinese model rather than the Western approach.


One of Chua’s main criticisms of American childrearing is that it creates weak and confused children who are not prepared for the real world. She sees the Western tendency for parents to “coddle” their children and reward them — even when it’s unwarranted — as setting them up for failure.

The book revealed a culture clash of enormous proportions, giving insights into the sometimes harsh yet unquestioningly effective way of producing strong, achievement-directed young adults.

This is the Lunar New Year Festival Lecture with support from Student Union. A booksigning will precede the lecture at 4 p.m. in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge.

Keith Sawyer, “Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration”
4 p.m. Monday, March 26, Location TBA


Sawyer, PhD, associate professor of education in Arts & Sciences, would agree with the proverb: Two heads are better than one.

Based on his research, the WUSTL professor, prolific author and leading scholar on creativity, innovation and group dynamics contends that most successful people do not create in a vacuum. Rather, they build upon the contributions from those who came before, and they work in a collaborative environment with colleagues.

As he demonstrates in his book Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, contrary to widespread opinion, everyone has the capacity to be creative if given the opportunity to break free from hierarchical restrictions and self-imposed beliefs that stifle creativity and innovation. Sawyer is delivering the Phi Beta Kappa Lecture.

William Julius Wilson, “Race and Affirmative Opportunity in the Barack Obama Era,” 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 27, Graham Chapel


The eminent sociologist and author Wilson, PhD, has been studying the conditions of life in the American inner city for nearly four decades.

His groundbreaking 1996 book, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, illustrated in startling detail the death blow delivered to inner city inhabitants by the loss of unskilled but living wage jobs in their own communities.

Wilson is interested in developing solutions for surmounting the “equal playing field” dilemma and getting past the heated rhetoric.

In his presentation, he will survey the landscape of racial- and class-based preferences, then present a case for opportunity enhancing affirmative action programs based on flexible, merit-based criteria for evaluation, rather than numerical guidelines or quotas.

He should know: It was the method used by the University of Chicago to recruit him into the faculty in the early 1970s. Wilson is delivering the Chancellor’s Fellows Lecture.

Dudley Herschbach,“Silly Serious Science: Homage to IgNobel and Ben Franklin” 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, Graham Chapel


In 2011, the IgNobel Award in chemistry was given for designing a method to wake sleepers during a fire by flinging wasabi horseradish at them. Goofy, yes; inconsequential, definitely not.

For the uninitiated, the IgNobel Awards, invented by Marc Abrahams, editor of Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), and complete with its own ceremony and traditions, appear to mock scientific inquiry. But the experiments are designed, in the words of NPR “Science Friday” host Ira Flatow, “to first make you laugh, then make you think.”

Many otherwise serious scientists, such as Herschbach, PhD, Nobel l
aureate in chemistry (1986), view the Igs as complementary to the prizes Alfred Nobel launched in 1901.

As a long-time participant and judge, Herschbach thinks that science and humor have been a winning combination for many successful Americans, all the way back to Ben Franklin. Herschbach is delivering the annual Ferguson Science Lecture.

Arthur Kleinman, “The Quest for Moral Wisdom in Academic Life: Why William James Still Matters for the Art of Living” 4 p.m. Thursday, April 5, Graham Chapel


Kleinman, MD, a celebrated physician and anthropologist, has devoted his career to the study of how people learn to forge a life with meaning and purpose when faced with dangers and uncertainties from serious illness and personal catastrophes to political violence and social turmoil.

He has studied the survivors of China’s Cultural Revolution, Americans and Chinese with stigmatized health conditions, and family caregivers for patients at the end of life. He himself was primary caregiver for his wife and collaborator, Joan Kleinman, who died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2011.

Out of these experiences and over four decades, Kleinman has developed influential theories, including illness as felt experience, explanatory models, social suffering, local moral worlds, the divided self, and medicine as moral practice — ideas that have become central to medical anthropology, cultural psychiatry, global health, and the medical humanities.

He is a prolific author who has published textbooks as well as personal, moving narratives.

Sponsoring organizations for this presentation are the anthropology and the East Asian languages and cultures departments in Arts & Sciences; the program for the humanities in medicine in the School of Medicine; and the student honorary Alpha Epsilon Delta.

Three additional speakers are being added to the series schedule and will be listed on the Assembly Series website, For more information, call (314) 935-4620.