OLLI fall symposium to focus on the future of democracy

· 3 min read

OLLI fall symposium to focus on the future of democracy

Photo of a definition of "democracy" in a dictionary.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will hold its 2021 fall symposium, “The Fragile Future of Democracy,” from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Nebraska East Union. The event will feature experts from Nebraska, the University of Texas and the U.S. Department of State.

The symposium, which is open to the public, is being held in-person and streamed live on Zoom. The $20 in-person cost includes lunch. The Zoom event is $15 per person. Registration is required in advance and can be made online or by calling the OLLI office at 402-472-6265. The registration deadline is Oct 15. OLLI membership is not required.

In the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a widespread view in the United States that liberal or constitutional democracy had a bright future. The civil and political rights that are the foundations of liberal democracy looked firm. The United States and its democratic allies had won the Cold War, and American democracy in particular looked stable with apparently tolerable levels of inequality and continuing upward mobility, along with steady overall economic growth.

In recent years, however, American democracy has undergone a number of threats and challenges. It now looks fragile in many ways. Disturbing trends in the United States are being repeated abroad in other formerly liberal democratic countries such as Hungary and Poland. Many view liberal democracy as an endangered species.

This year’s speakers are:

  • John Hibbing, Foundation Regent University Professor of political science, Nebraska — Hibbing will share his recent research on political views in the United States affecting democratic stability. American political attitudes will then be compared with political trends in other countries.

  • Patricia Davis, director, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, global programs, U.S. Department of State — Davis will talk about the democracy and human rights bureau that she directs. This organization has long manifested a democracy promotion program, and it pays attention to specific civil and political rights abroad. She will talk about their recent efforts and the levels of congressional support across different administrations.

  • Zoltan Barany, professor of government, University of Texas at Austin — Barany will discuss problems that must be overcome in a variety of countries if liberal democracy is to be protected, restored or stabilized. He will also talk about how military regimes or military impacts sometimes remain powerful — as in Burma, Egypt and Brazil — and how autocrats manipulate the media.

  • David Forsythe, professor emeritus of political science, Nebraska — Forsythe will moderate a panel of the three speakers, who will explore common perspectives as well as differences.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Nebraska is a member-driven organization committed to providing and promoting superior-quality, high-appeal learning experiences, events and travel opportunities designed for adults 50 and over who believe that “curiosity never retires.”

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