Press Release: Great Issues Forum First Year Focus on Power

A series of high-profile public Conversations on the theme of Power will launch the Great Issues Forum this fall. An ambitious new initiative of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the Great Issues Forum brings together prominent statesmen, policy makers, public intellectuals, entrepreneurs, journalists, and scholars to explore the critical questions of our time, focusing on a separate theme each year. This fall’s three inaugural Conversations will examine power within the context of an increasingly globalized world, including discussions of Political Power on October 2, with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Nicholas D. Kristof, and Mary Robinson; Economic Power on October 20, with Hernando de Soto, Joseph Stiglitz, and Naomi Klein; and Cultural Power on November 10, with Tom Stoppard and Derek Walcott. (details below)

In addition to the series of free public conversations, the Great Issues Forum also hosts a website at, where the public can participate in online seminars, access video archives of past programs, post comments, or seek further information and resources. The theme of power will extend into next spring, with conversations on Military Power and Educational Power.

Subsequent themes for the Great Issues Forum include “Place” and “Faith.” The Great Issues Forum is funded by the 2007 Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award, presented to Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, and organized by the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center.

The following conversations will be held at the Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue. Programs are free, but seating is limited and reservations are required. Reservations can be made at, or by calling 212-817-8215.

Political Power
Thursday, October 2, 7:00 pm

Proshansky AuditoriumWhat is the most effective way to influence the exercise of political power? Can genocide be halted? What are the natural limits of political power? Join three preeminent policy and opinion makers as they discuss the violation and defense of human rights by national and international powers. Featuring Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor; Nicholas D. Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times; and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Moderated by Thomas Weiss, Presidential Professor of Political Science at The Graduate Center and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, where he co-directs the U.N. Intellectual History Project.  

Economic Power

Monday, October 20, 7:00 pm
Proshansky Auditorium

What is the role of the U.S. in the disposition of the world’s economic and environmental resources? How are the world’s financial markets best defended from economic shock? Does liberalization ensure prosperity? Influential economists Hernando de Soto and Joseph Stiglitz join journalist and activist Naomi Klein to debate their different economic approaches in a conversation moderated by David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center. Hernando de Soto is President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, in Peru. Naomi Klein is the award-winning journalist and author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz is an economist and Professor of Economics at Columbia University.

Cultural Power
Monday, November 10, 7:00 pm
Proshansky Auditorium

How does art affect consciousness, bridge political, ideological, religious, and geographic distances, and contribute to physical and political change? Tom Stoppard and Derek Walcott, two international literary luminaries, examine the power of culture and art in a globalizing world. David Nasaw, Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate Center, will moderate. Tom Stoppard is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Shakespeare in Love” and the Tony Award-winning playwright of The Coast of Utopia and Rock ’N’Roll. Derek Walcott, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has written numerous plays and collections of poetry, including Omeros and The Prodigal.   The Center for the Humanities has also organized a related series of associated public conversations to be held at the Graduate Center. Reservations are not available for these programs; seating is first-come, first-served.  

Power and Progressive Politics: Europe
Friday, September 19, 4:00 pm
The Martin E. Segal Theatre

What is the fate of progressive politics in Europe? What are the parallels for left-party politics on the other side of the Atlantic? Jane Kramer, European correspondent for The New Yorker, discusses these questions and others with Walter Veltroni, Italian journalist, politician, and leader of Italy’s Democratic Party. Moderated by Michael Blim, Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center.

Religion and Power: The African-American Church and American Politics
Tuesday, September 23, 7:00 pm
Elebash Recital Hall

What is the past and continuing influence of African-American churches on U.S. politics? Biblical scholar Obery Hendricks, historian Barbara Savage, and theologian Yolanda Pierce discuss religion and power in America. Obery Hendricks, author of The Politics of Jesus, is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at New York Theological Seminary. Yolanda Pierce is Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Barbara Savage is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at University of Pennsylvania.

Power and Sex: America’s War on Sexual Rights

Monday, November 17, 7:00 pm
Proshansky Auditorium

How has the conservative agenda come to dominate the national and international conversation on sexual practices and reproductive rights? Why have American liberals become so intimidated? Faye Wattleton, President of the Center for the Advancement of Women, speaks with Nation columnist Katha Pollitt and historian Dagmar Herzog, author of Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics, about the powerful influence of the religious right and other conservative forces on today’s sexual politics.  

The Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center, CUNY, was founded in 1993 as a public forum for people who take ideas seriously inside and outside the academy. By bringing together CUNY students and faculty with prominent journalists, artists, and civic leaders, the Center seeks to promote the humanities and humanistic perspectives in the social sciences. In the tradition of CUNY and The Graduate Center’s commitment to ensuring access to the highest levels of educational opportunity for all New Yorkers, all events are free and open to the public. 

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to more than thirty interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns. Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, the Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events. Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at

Submitted on: SEP 1, 2008

Category: Press Room