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Socrates Program: 2019 Winter Seminars

Socrates Winter Seminars

Socrates Seminars begin with an opening reception on Friday evening, and conclude Monday afternoon following the final seminar session. The weekend program consists of three four-hour seminar sessions with free time and activities each morning. The seminar tuition is $2,000. Scholarships are available by application. Please see below for descriptions of seminar offerings:

The Spiral of Immigration and Nationalism
“We asked for workers,” lamented Swiss writer Max Frisch in 1972. “We got people instead.” In a globalized world where money, goods, and information fluidly cross borders, it is the humanity of immigrants that is at the core of the controversies they inspire. For some, their humanity qualifies them for equal standards of living and treatment. For others, equality threatens status and wealth that took generations of sacrifice to accumulate. Migrants not only cheapen the labor they provide; to many, they cheapen national identity and citizenship. In these ways, immigration is the most polemical and intimately experienced expression of globalization—felt at home, in the workplace, in communities, and through the media. And the dividing lines of public opinion reflect divergent experiences with globalization more broadly, a phenomenon that has made people more and less secure. In this seminar, we seek an stronger, more contextualized understanding of immigration and its accompanying nativist, nationalist backlash. Our goal is to transcend the stereotypes that politicians peddle and develop a nuanced grasp of the trends warping the social, political, and business spheres. Who are the people at the center of our polarizing world? Where does the balance lie? How can immigration work for all?

Moderator: Justin Gest, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

Learning from Frederick Douglass:  The Politics, Business, and Art of America’s Legendary Activist and Leader
Frederick Douglass is the preeminent African American leader of the nineteenth century and one of the nation’s greatest activists, orators, and writers.  His speeches, writings, and journalism helped transform the United States from a slave society into a democratic society with “equal protection of the laws.” This course focuses on Douglass’s speeches, journalism, and autobiographical writings.  They provide a road map for understanding not only how he evolved as a leader and activist, but for helping us to become better leaders and agents of change.  The methods that distinguished Douglass as a leader remain crucial for leaders today.  And the critical issues of his time remain critical issues of our time: the meanings of freedom and equality; the function and limits of government; and the ways in which blacks, other minorities, and women alter and transform society or an organization.  Each session focuses on a selection of Douglass’s writings that raise critical questions—-in his time and ours—about building and reforming society (or an organization) and mobilizing constituents in order to achieve a stated goal.

Moderator: John Stauffer, the Sumner R. and Marshall S. Kates Professor of English and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, is an award-winning teacher and best-selling author of GIANTS:  The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

The Evolution of Warfare: Technology, Humanity and the Role of Ethics
The battlefield will shift, change and evolve in the coming decades, spurred on by technological shifts, the (re)emergence of great power competition and the leveling of the gap between and among competitors spurred on by technological advancement.  What is the role of  technology in protecting America? Are we in the midst of an Artificial Intelligence race, and what does that mean for American security and the post-war, rules-based order which has enabled the prosperity and growth the United States has enjoyed since the end of World War II? How do we see the continuum between humanitarian protection and military intervention?  And as we speak about future conflict, how do we protect civilians and include women in the search for stability? How much does technological supremacy matter in an era where inexpensive consumer technology can be weaponized?  We will tackle these questions and more in our discussion of the evolution of warfare and the search for security and stability.

Moderators: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and best-selling author of Ashley’s War and The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Ashley’s War featured on DIA and SOCOM reading lists. Cara LaPointe, Senior Fellow at the Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation at Georgetown University.

Additional winter seminar opportunity:

The Idea of America: Exploring the Declaration of Independence and American Ideals of Liberty, Equality and the Rule of Law

This seminar will consider the founding ideals of America through careful examination of several of our nation’s most influential documents, beginning with the Declaration of Independence. We will explore the meaning of certain principles of liberal democracy, as understood by seminar participants, and as more broadly practiced in the United States. For various reasons, including increasing political polarization, the decline of civic education, loss of confidence in the future and eroding faith in our nation’s institutions, the popular appeal of these principles can no longer be taken for granted. This seminar is designed to encourage constructive conversation and deeper understanding of differing perspectives about our country, predicated on a common commitment to these ideals. We will also discuss opportunities to advance greater public appreciation of these American principles.

Moderators: J. Russell Muirhead, Robert Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics at Dartmouth College; Diana Schaub, professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland; Todd Breyfogle, Director of Seminars for the Aspen Institute.

Space in this seminar is limited and by invitation. If interested, please email Wendell Willkie ( about participation in this seminar. A full description and additional details can be found here

Event information
Fri Feb 15, 2019 - Mon Feb 18, 2019
Aspen Meadows Campus
Aspen, CO, United States