past event
Around the Institute

Socrates Program: 2021 Summer Seminars

Socrates Summer Seminars

The Socrates Program is excited to host our 25th annual Summer Seminars in a hybrid capacity (meaning in-person and virtual) this July 16-19! The in-person seminar tuition is $2,500 and virtual seminar tuition is $250. 

We have lined up five fantastic seminars with new and veteran moderators.

Please see below for descriptions of seminar offerings:

Political Divisions and Political Violence in America: What Happens Next? 

From May 2020 to January 2021 the most severe wave of political violence in many decades swept across America.  From the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, to the creation of a Free Zone in downtown Seattle, to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6—an event unprecedented in American history, with blood spilled inside the Capitol building in confrontations between police and protestors—America reeled, and Americans’ faith in their institutions was shaken.  Distrust of the police, of elections, of politicians, and of the media reached levels that crippled the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic and left almost half the country wondering whether American democracy had worked, and whether we had a legitimately elected President.  Was this outburst of political upheaval just a product of the Trump administration and its actions?  Or did it have deeper roots, and is thus likely to recur?  Can America heal these divisions, and what can the Biden administration do to restore trust in our government?  Looking at economic data, surveys, and demographic trends, participants will enter the viewpoints of participants in the protests, and in government, to consider answers to these vital questions.

Moderator: Jack A. Goldstone is one of the world’s leading experts on social protest and revolutions.  He has won Fellowships from the Guggenheim, Carnegie and MacArthur Foundations, and major awards from the American Sociological Association and the International Studies Association for his research.  After earning his PhD at Harvard, he has taught at Northwestern University, the University of California, and held visiting positions at Cambridge, Caltech, and at universities in Germany, Australia, Russia and Hong Kong, He was the Richard Holbrooke Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin, and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  He is currently the Virginia E. and John T. Hazel, Jr., Chair Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, a global fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center, and has recently appeared in interviews for Der Spiegel, EXPERT (Moscow), Salon and on podcasts with Sam Harris (Making Sense), Joe Walker (Jolly Swagman), Piers Leigh (The Thought Exchange), and Jonathan Small (Write about Now).

Crisis Communication in a Pandemic and Securing the Public’s Trust 

As the last 15 months have laid bare, earning the public’s trust is critical to ensuring an effective pandemic response and mitigating the preventable loss of life. Tragically, this task is far easier said than done, particularly in the age of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, where truth is easily distorted, politics obscures evidence, and effective communicators are few and far between. The result is terrible public health policy and practice, with intolerable death tolls that were largely preventable. As is common in military doctrine and, more broadly, in disaster-response management, clear communication is a necessary priority in any crisis, particularly when anxiety, fear, and misinformation and rampant. In this seminar we will explore the key elements of effective public communication in a crisis, leaning on historical examples and the modern day, understanding how to leverage story-telling and visuals to convey key points, and the importance of lay speak and being accessible.

Moderator: Dr. Vin Gupta, MD, MPA, MSc, is an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington

The 2020 She-Cession- Unpacking the Factors that Shape Women in the U.S. Economy 

In late Spring of 2020 the expression Shecession was born. The term refers to the unprecedented loss of women’s jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdowns.  Recessions are traditionally a man’s business, however the 2020 pandemic recession, broke that tradition and brought women, especially women of color into the focus of an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Female job loss as a result of the pandemic has been compounded by the “voluntary” exit of women from the labor force because of a lack of childcare or remote schooling.  Beyond the immediate effects of income loss women are now facing are the medium and long-term ramifications of the Shecession in the.  As the American economy enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology and AI will render many of the jobs women fill obsolete.  In the long-term, women’s financial security is increasingly insecure as short and medium term income loss impacts retirement security.  The issues and challenges surrounding women in the American workforce are not new but have been gradually building up to the crisis point the pandemic uncovered.  As the U.S. economy emerges from the Coronavirus how do we chart a path forward for women, for their families, and for American prosperity.

Moderator: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto is assistant dean for civic engagement and a lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, where she was selected as one of UT’s Game Changers. She is also a faculty affiliate of the Department of Mexican-American and Latino Studies and the Center for Mexican American Studies. Soto received her Ph.D. in political science from Duke University, during which time she was a National Science Foundation Fellow. Named one of the top 12 scholars in the country by Diverse magazine, she previously taught at Northwestern University and Rutgers.

De-Institutionalizing Racism: How Did We Get Here/Where Are We Going?

Racism has been an ingrained and institutionalized part of American society for hundreds of years. After a summer of social unrest and a contentious presidential election, this divided nation has a renewed focus on criminal justice reform, voting rights and more. In this seminar, we will explore both the history and future of institutionalized racism in the United States. What factors led us exactly to where we are today? What are the most important steps to take for progress? Join us in this seminar as we examine the path forward.

Moderator: Gloria Browne-Marshall is a Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY). She teaches classes in Constitutional Law, Race and the Law, Evidence, and Gender and Justice. She taught in the Africana Studies Program at Vassar College prior to John Jay. She is a civil rights attorney who litigated cases for Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.. She addresses audiences nationally and internationally. Gloria J. Browne-Marshall has spoken on issues of law and justice in France, Ghana, Rwanda, England, Wales, Canada, South Africa and before the United Nations in Geneva.

Communications and the Presidency [Seminar will be moderated remotely]

In American today, agenda setting and the task of mobilizing government action to address major questions of national policy are the essence of the president’s job. Thus, the ability to communicate, effectively and persuasively,  by speech, by statement, and by gestures and actions is arguably the president’s most important leadership and governing tool.

What are the basic patterns  that characterize presidential communications in the era of electronic communications, of television and radio? What are the possibilities for effective communication in the era of social media and the internet? How can presidential communications serve  –in a highly contentious and polarized political climate— to mobilize and direct American political energies towards meeting the major national policy challenges  we face today?  How have presidential speeches, statements and actions enabled American presidents to address  successfully major challenges in the past?

This seminar will examine the vital aspect of communication as a key aspect of presidential leadership, now and in the past.  Readings and discussion will focus first on the general topic of presidential communications, then proceed to focus on a major case study; the civil rights issue as it emerged in the fifties bringing forth  passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Analysis of the civil rights question and of  Presidential communications strategies adopted  to address civil rights  can illuminate possibilities available today as President Biden and his successors deal with the equally challenging issues of trade and globalization, income inequality, climate change and “systemic racism.”

Moderator: David Eisenhower is the Director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Eisenhower at War: 1943-1945, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1987. Educated at Philips Exeter Academy, Amherst College, and George Washington University Law School, he is the son of John and Barbara Eisenhower, and the grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He is married to the former Julie Nixon, younger daughter of President Richard Nixon. David and Julie Eisenhower are the parents of three adult children and live in suburban Philadelphia.

Health and Safety Guidelines for In Person Events

The Aspen Institute is committed to creating a safe seminar experience for all participants. Please see our COVID-19 safety guidelines here.

These guidelines will be regularly updated to meet the latest health and safety guidance of the CDC and local authorities. If you anticipate any issues or have any concerns, please contact us at

Event information
Fri Jul 16, 2021 - Mon Jul 19, 2021
Aspen, CO