40 Conference on Democracy Sessions

This week Marin Academy has been thrilled to present the 9th annual Conference on Democracy.  The Conference embraces the second part of MA’s mission statement, which “challenges each person to accept the responsibilities posed by education in a democratic society” with a wide array of sessions and speakers providing perspectives on political, social, economic, and environmental issues that our communities face locally, nationally, and globally.  Enjoy a taste of COD sessions of the past years in this week’s list of 40!

2004: Democracy and Economics
Panelists:  Fred Block, Professor of Sociology, UC Davis, author; Economic Policy and History Analyst; David Crane, Special Advisor for Jobs and Economic Growth, Office of the Governor, State of California

2004: Democracy and Education
Panelists: Al Adams, Head of School, Lick Wilmerding High School, San Francisco; Juan Carlos Arauz, Educator; Associate Director of Programs, Canal Ministry, San Rafael; May Jane Burke, Superintendent, Marin County Schools; Matthew Keleman, PhD, Special Assistant to the Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District; David Stern, PhD, Professor, Graduate School of Education, UC Berkeley

2004: Voter Rights and Participation
An evening with Rep. Jacqueline Weatherspoon, New Hampshire State Representative.  Rep. Weatherspoon’s years of service in state government took her from the halls of the New Hampshire legislature to Bosnia, where she endured five months of bombings working for the Organization in Security Cooperation in Europe as an election officer assisting in the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. She also started her own non-profit, Decision in Democracy International, aimed at bringing women from emerging democracies to the United States to receive training in how to run for office.

2004:  Keynote Speaker: Robert Scheer & Mill Valley Film Festival: Citizen Stan
Marin Academy hosted the Mill Valley Film Festival screening of Citizen Stan, a documentary about the life and work of noted activist, economist and philanthropist Stanley Sheinbaum. Constantly at the forefront of various causes related to the protection of constitutional rights, education, public justice and human rights, Stanley Sheinbaum may be the most powerful man you’ve never heard of.  Special guest was Robert Scheer, a producer of Citizen Stan, and journalist with over 30 years experience who has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. A nationally syndicated columnist, author, and contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times and The Nation, Scheer has interviewed every president from Richard Nixon on through Bill Clinton. A Senior Lecturer at the  USC Annenberg School of Communication, Scheer is an accomplished author of six books including With Enough Showels: Reagan, Bush  and Nuclear War and America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals.

2005: Joan Blades, Co-Founder, MoveOn.org
“The MoveOn family of organizations gives real Americans a voice in a political process dominated by big money and armies of lobbyists. With over 7 million members across America – from carpenters to stay-at-home moms to business leaders – we work together to realize the progressive promise of our country.” (moveon.org)

2005: Activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki
Internationally-acclaimed speaker, environmental and social justice activist; co-founder of the Skyfish Project; and member of the United Nations World Summit Advisory Panel

2005: Author David Sheff
Author and journalist who is a contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Fortune and Rolling Stone. Contributing Editor of Playboy and Wired

2005: Writer Norman Solomon
Nationally syndicated columnist, author, and media commentator. Founder and Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy, a national consortium of policy researchers and analysts

2006:  Film Screening: Soul of Justice
Soul Justice is an award-winning documentary about the life and work of the Honorable Thelton Henderson.  Few judges provoke the ire of conservatives more than Thelton Henderson, Senior Judge of the Federal District Court of Northern California.  The son of a domestic worker, Thelton Henderson has spent much of his life as the “first or only” African American in his field. He became the first Black attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in 1962, the first Black member of a prestigious California law firm and, in 1980, only the second African American ever appointed to the Federal Bench in Northern California.

2006: Professor Orville Schell:  The History of the Media and the American Experiment in Democracy
Orville Schell is an author and contributor to such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times MagazineThe Nation, Newsweek, The New York Review of Books, and others.  He has served as a correspondent and consultant for PBS Frontline and  an Emmy award-winning program for “60 Minutes.”

2006: From Me to We: Youth in Action Changing the World
Keynote and discussion with Craig Kielburger, 23 year old Founder of Free the Children, an internationally recognized child rights organization which has was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.  Free the Children built more than 400 primary schools around the world, providing daily education to over 35,000 children.

2006: Mill Valley Film Festival:  Have You Heard from Johannesburg
Have You Heard from Johannesburg, a ground-breaking documentary combining present day interviews with historical footage that tells the untold story of millions of people around the world who influenced the actions of their governments and multi-national corporations towards the goal of ending apartheid. Tightly constructed and enlightening at every turn, “Have You Heard from Johannesburg” traces a profound period of contemporary history.  Special guest: Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Connie Field.

2007: Keynote: Dr. Samantha Nutt
Dr. Samantha Nutt is the founder of War Child Canada and spoke to students about her experiences on the frontlines of many of the world’s centers of crisis and the unique insight she gained into the brutality of modern conflict.

2007: Attorney Elizabeth de la Vega
Elizabeth de la Vega, author of United States v George Bush et al, spoke to current students.  She is also a former federal prosecutor and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

2007: Film Screening: War Made Easy
Screening of acclaimed documentary film War Made Easy and discussion with author and journalist Norman Solomon. 

2008: Election 2008: Environmental Policy Forum
In this first-of-its-kind session organized by science teacher Liz Gottlieb, members the AP Environmental Science classes presented and debated the environmental policies of John McCain and Barack Obama in advance of the 2008 presidential election.

2008: California’s Low Carbon Future:  A Challenge for Our Democracy
Featured panelists include David Crane, Special Advisor for Jobs and Economic Growth, CA Office of the Governor and MA alum Robyn Allen ’03, Executive Director, Vehicle Design Summit Project.  This session recreated a symposium David Crane organized about “California’s Low-Carbon Future” earlier in the year and featured prominent experts in the field discussing the environmental, economic, and political benefits and challenges related to carbon emissions in California.

2008: Keynote Address: Orville Schell
Orville Schell is Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society and award-winning author and journalist.  Through the lenses of the historical roots of our democracy, the role the media should play to keep it healthy, and how the rest of the world sees the U.S., Schell reflected on the upcoming election and its potential impact on our future as national and global citizens.

2008: Film Screening: Stealing America: Vote by Vote
This film brings together behind-the-scenes perspectives from the U.S. presidential election of 2004 – plus startling stories from key races in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2006. Unbiased and nonpartisan, the film sheds light on a decade of vote counts that don’t match votes cast – uncounted ballots, vote switching, under- votes and many other examples of election totals that warrant serious investigation.  Screening was followed by a Q&A with Producer/Director Dorothy Fadiman.

2008: Election 2008: Proposition 8 and Marriage Equality
Proposition 8 was a proposed Constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot seeking to revoke the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.  Organized by human development teacher Sanjai Moses and moderated by English teacher Mary Collie, this panel brought together supporters and opponents of Prop 8 to discuss the issues and take questions from the audience.  Panelists: Bill May, Chairman, Catholics for the Common Good and Melanie Rowen, Staff Attorney, National Center for Lesbian Rights; Assemblyman and State Senate Candidate Mark Leno; and Cyrus Johnson, Co-chair, Catholics for the Protection of Marriage

2008: Youth and the American Dream: Shining Promise or Fading Ideal?
In this first-of-its-kind session, Bob Schleeter and his writing partner of 25 years, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, examined the continued accessibility of the American Dream.  Through a combination of discussion and performance of songs from their show “The Spirit Warrior’s Dream” Bob and Ricardo will lead the audience in an exploration of democratic values and the potential futures of democratic society.

2009: Teens Turning Green:  Empowering Youth to Create a Greener Future
MA seniors Cora Went ’09 and Michael Perlstein ’09 lead a panel of policymakers and industry experts in a discussion about the work of Teens Turning Green, the groundbreaking organization working to empower youth to eliminate the dangers of exposure to toxic chemicals in their daily lives.  Panelists included Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan; Stacy Malken, author of Not Just a Pretty Face and co-founder of National Campaign for Safe Cosmetics; Debbie Raphael, San Francisco Department of the Environment and Toxics Reduction/Green Building Program; Karl Palmer, Manager, Pollution Prevention and Green Technology, Department of Toxic Substances Control

2009: Keynote: Author Eric Schlosser
Eric Schlosser – author of the books Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, and a co-producer of the film FOOD INC. — spoke about the need for critical thinking amid the disinformation spread by government agencies, the media, and powerful corporations.

2009: Afghanistan:  US Policy at the Crossroads
Norman Solomon, journalist, author, Executive Director, The Institute for Public Accuracy and author of  War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Are Spinning Us to Death and Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters With America’s Warfare State  reflected on his recent visit to Afghanistan and engage students in conversation about possible directions for US policy in the region.

2009: Bridging the Worlds: Six Months in Ramallah
MA alum Lev Plaves ’06 discussed his semester and summer living in Ramallah, the vibrant heart of the Palestinian West Bank and his ongoing efforts to build understanding between cultures through recognition of our shared humanity.  Lev studied at Birzeit University and worked at Amideast, a non-profit that promotes greater cultural cooperation throughout the region.

2009: Holy Hullabaloos: Church, State, and The Constitution
Professor Jay Wexler of Boston University Law School discussed his book Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church-State Wars and shed light on how the Supreme Court approaches the issue of religious expression in public life in their handling of First Amendment cases.  Professor Wexler engaged students in a conversation about how these issues appear in our daily lives.

2009: Spreading The Word: Documentary Film and Democratic Society
Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, co-producers and co-directors of The Most Dangerous Man in America, are nationally known documentary filmmakers whose cogent and inspirational films deal with the themes of personal risk, conscience, dissent and commitment to ideals.  In this session they presented clips from their work and talked about the vital role of their work plays in providing citizens the information they need to make better decisions in our democracy.

2010: Keynote: Author Mark Mathabane
Mark Mathabane is the author of Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa, which is required reading at many colleges and high schools.

2010: Democracy and the Environment
Nina Simons and Kenny Ausubel joined the Marin Academy community for an evening event to talk about their work with Bioneers, a nonprofit promoting practical and innovative solutions to environmental and social problems.

2011: Keynote: Jennifer Siebel Newsom – Miss Representation
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, producer and narrator of the film Miss Representation, an award-winning documentary about images of gender in media, shared clips of her film and took questions from the audience.

2011:  NPR@ MA: A Conversation with Ron Elving, Senior Washington Editor for NPR
Ron Elving, National Public Radio’s Senior Washington Correspondent, joined the editorial staff of The Voice for a conversation about the latest in Presidential Politics, the Washington scene, and what’s it’s like to cover it all.

2011: Alum Spotlight:  Fighting HIV in Africa
MA alum Dr. Dawud Lankford ’97 spoke to current students about his work with Grassroots Alliance for Community Education (GRACE), a nonprofit organization in the US and Africa that strives to prevent and alleviate suffering caused by HIV/AID.

2011: Civil Rights in France:  Headscarf Laws and Democracy
The USA isn’t the only place where civil rights and religious practice collide.  Aida Schafer’s French IV honors students discussed and debated French laws that prohibit the wearing of Muslim headscarves in schools and other public places.

2011: Dr. Chris O’Sullivan:  The New Deal and its Legacies
Brizendine Scholar (2009) Dr. Chris O’Sullivan returned to MA to discuss the New Deal and its impacts

2012: Block the Vote: Voter Suppression and the 2012 Election
After viewing several clips from the new documentary Electoral Dysfunction, the historical context of voting rights and the many ways in which states control the right to vote was discussed.  Myrna Perez, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, joined Pam Maffei’s American Government students presenting this important issue.

2012: Close to Home: Economic Inequity in Marin and the Education Gap
The MA Peace and Justice Club presented findings from the Marin Community Foundation’s January 2012 report, A Portrait of Marin, which documents the surprising degree and thought-provoking details of economic inequity in Marin County. The discussion focused on education and will include some of the authors of the report and other experts in the field.

2012: Journalism and the First Amendment: Lance Williams and the BALCO Story
This session featured a presentation by and discussion with Lance Williams, Senior Investigative Reporter for California Watch. Williams broke many stories in the BALCO Laboratories steroid scandal and was threatened with an 18-month prison sentence if he would not reveal his sources for the story. Among other topics, he will discuss the importance of the 1st Amendment in keeping investigative journalism viable.

2012: Thacher Lecture: John Freidah and Dave Philipps
Three-time National Photographic Press Association Photographer of the Year and Emmy-winning filmmaker John Freidah and Pulitzer Prize Finalist and best-selling author Dave Philipps will present and discuss their work on the struggles of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with the readjustment to life at home. The session will include a screening of Freidah’s filmThe War on Terror: Coming Home and conversation about Philipps’s book Lethal Warriors: When the New Band of Brothers Came Home.

2012: Gender, Sexuality, and Power in Latin America
Pilar Gongora’s Spanish V/VI students will lead a session that will explore the experiences of women and gay citizens in Cuba and Spain 40 years ago and today, focusing on two significant literary figures and explaining the political context then and now.

Keynote Assembly: Playwright and Performer Dan Hoyle
Dan Hoyle, playwright and performer of The Real Americans and Tings Dey Happen, will discuss his process and perform selections from those shows and new material in progress.  Fleeing the liberal bubble of San Francisco, Hoyle spent 100 days traveling through small-town America in search of some tough country wisdom and a way to bridge America’s urban/rural divide. Instead, Hoyle found himself immersed in the populist anger of the people whom Sarah Palin famously described as “The Real Americans” and awed at the disconnect between Obama Nation and Palin Country. Portrayed with humor, sympathy, confusion, angst, and song, this vivid, highly-lauded one-man performance challenges the audience to move beyond their bafflement and engage with the future of a politically polarized America.

The 2012-2013 school year marks 40 years of education at Marin Academy.  Throughout the year we will be commemorating this anniversary with on-campus events for students, special publications (including this on-going series of “lists of 40”), and a community celebration at Bimbo’s in San Francisco on April 20 (Save the date!).

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