Democracy Talks is a series of events designed to illuminate the democratic process and create space for conversation. Our expert speakers grapple with the thorniest issues of our time, providing much-needed context and suggesting paths to engagement. Have a suggestion for a speaker? Let us know!
What Is the Census and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 | 7 pm
The United States Constitution requires us to count every person living in the United States every 10 years. Come learn why the U.S. Census is so important that the framers included it in the Constitution, what questions will be asked, and what is done with the information collected. Carly Bari, Partnership Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, will answer all your questions and address any concerns.
Book Discussion: Jill Lepore’s This America
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Join us for a discussion of This America: The Case for the Nation by Jill Lepore. Pick up a copy of this brief (160-page) history of nationalism and “manifesto for a better nation” at the library starting in mid-September, read it ahead of time, and bring your questions and thoughts to the group. (Please note that this is not a book club meeting, but a one-time reading and discussion program, open to all!)
Beyond the "Eyeball Test" for Political Gerrymandering
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
The Metric Geometry & Gerrymandering Group (MGGG) is a team of mathematicians, data scientists, and geographers who believe that gerrymandering of all kinds is a fundamental threat to our democracy. This talk covered the applications of computing and geometry that MGGG has developed to detect and combat gerrymandering across the United States, with a particular focus on local redistricting in Massachusetts.
The Role of Local Government in Safeguarding Human Rights
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
A panel of representatives from Human Rights Commissions in Lexington, Belmont, and Melrose spoke about their purpose, process, and progress. Co-presented by Watertown Citizens for Black Lives.
The View from the Shore
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Killing Memory: The Destruction and Resurrection of Libraries and Cultural Heritage
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
A special One Book, One Watertown installment of Democracy Talks presented by Andras Riedlmayer, director of the Documentation Center for Islamic Architecture at Harvard’s Fine Arts Library, who documented the destruction of cultural heritage in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s.
James Madison and the Coming of Age of the U.S.
Thursday, February 21, 2019
During this President’s Day Week, President James Madison spoke firsthand about his experiences during the establishment of our country. Bil Lewis, a computer scientist, returned Peace Corps Volunteer, past District Governor for Toast Masters, small businessman, and Eagle Scout, portrayed President Madison.
The African American Trail Project
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
The African American Trail Project is an organizational network and community-based archive that maps African American and African-descended public history sites across greater Boston. Historian Kerri Greenidge introduced the project, which is housed at the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts.
A Seat at the Table
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Edward M. Kennedy Institute staff members Elaine Mondy, Amy Munslow, and Sarah Yezzi described the Institute’s A Seat at the Table project, inspired by Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. After the presentation, Watertown Community Conversations led a facilitated conversation.
Inequality and Public Policy
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Sara Chaganti discussed the role of public policy – both current and past – in driving inequality. Chaganti is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, a research institute housed at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. After the presentation, Watertown Community Conversations led a facilitated conversation.
Civil and Uncivil Disobedience
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Candice Delmas, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Northeastern University, discussed the standard template for civil disobedience, the demands and limits of civility, and the potential value of uncivil disobedience. Delmas’s book, A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil, was published by Oxford University Press in September 2018.
What Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Project Literacy citizenship instructor Anne Benaquist and a panel of new Americans explained the process of - and reasons behind - becoming a citizen of the U.S.
Defining, Developing, and Legislating "Fair" Housing
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Jennifer Van Campen, Executive Director of Metro West Collaborative Development, used examples from our own local communities to illustrate historical and current practices that thwart fair housing.
Democracy in Iran
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
In this special One Book, One Watertown edition of our ongoing series, MIT historian Pouya Alimagham provided an overview of democracy movements in modern Iran.
The Future of Voting Rights, 2018 and Beyond
Thursday, December 7, 2017
At this sixth event in our ongoing series, Professor Rachael Cobb provided an historical overview of voting rights and updated us on what’s at stake in 2018.
Rachael Cobb, Associate Professor and Chair of the Government Department at Suffolk University, studies U.S. elections, election administration, electoral politics, civic engagement, and political participation. She established the University Pollworkers Project, a nonpartisan program designed to recruit college students to serve as poll workers in partnership with the City of Boston’s Election Department. Professor Cobb serves on the board of MassVOTE, iVote, and the Boston Election Advisory Committee, and she is a monthly contributor to the SCRUM on NPR’s Morning Edition on WGBH.
How to Talk So Your Legislators Will Listen
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Attendees learned the most effective ways to reach state legislators and make their voices heard in this non-partisan presentation by Nancy Brumback. At what point in the legislation process is communication from constituents most effective? Why is it important to contact legislators when you know they agree with you?
Brumback is a director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts and oversees the League’s work on state legislation.
How Immigration Law Affects Us All
Thursday, August 17, 2017
What do recent changes to immigration law and policy mean for refugees, newcomers, longtime residents, and citizens? Sabrineh Ardalan, Assistant Director of the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School, gave an overview of the upheavals and their impact.
What Does Climate Change Mean for Massachusetts?
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
What effects will climate change have on Massachusetts and on the northeastern states in general? What are the long-term effects of current and possible changes in legislation, government agencies, and funding? What can you can do to combat climate change and achieve sustainability? With Keith Bergman of The Climate Reality Project.
Civil Disobedience Workshop
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild discussed how to prepare for civil disobedience actions and their legal consequences. Training topics included:
- pre-rally concerns
- what happens when you are arrested
- deals and depositions
- tips for legal observers
Donald Trump and the Republic
Thursday, January 19, 2017
On the eve of the presidential inauguration, UMass Boston professor Erin O’Brien, Ph.D, applied the lens of political science to the transition in our executive branch. How might President-elect Trump’s plans and promises conform to our nation’s core principles? What should we watch for during the inauguration, and in the weeks and months to follow?