BYU 2019-2020 Forum schedule: ‘The Pursuit of Democratic Character’

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BYU released the 2019-20 Forum schedule with the theme, “The Pursuit of Democratic Character.”

While past Forum topics have varied by speaker, this is the first time the Forum addresses will focus on a specific theme, according to John R. Rosenberg, Associate Academic Vice President for Undergraduate Studies.

This upcoming Forum schedule will bring a diverse set of speakers, including a NASA scientist, a New York Times columnist and a Hmong refugee.

Rosenberg, who is also the Forum Director, said the speakers are chosen by two processes.

“We invite faculty to submit nominations,” he said. “We also have an advisory group that meets several times a year to discuss themes and potential speakers.”

Greg Clark, BYU English professor and author of “Civic Jazz: American Music and Kenneth Burke on the Art of Getting Along,” will be performing with Jazz musician Marcus Roberts during a February Forum to bring an “educational component” to the music. Clark said he thinks the chosen Forum theme is immensely important.

“It’s an issue and a concern I’ve had for 20 years — that people in the United States aren’t doing the things that democracy enables and requires. People in the United States equate democracy with freedom,” he said. “The thing is, democracy is also about responsibility.”

Clark said their purpose is to help people understand that Jazz is more than music.

“Jazz is a sort of an American cultural practice, that has a lot to teach us about the potential of American character and American political aspirations,” he said.

According to Clark, “Democracy is not a form of government, so much as it is a way of life. It’s a way of treating each other.”

Clark and Roberts will perform during a Forum on Feb. 25, 2020.


2019-2020 Forum schedule:

Kao Kalia Yang Sept. 24, 2019

Hmong American writer and author Kao Kalia Yang was born in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand and came to Minnesota as a refugee with her family in 1987. Her first book, “The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir,” is a firsthand account of the journey that many Hmong people made from place to place in order to find home. It is the first Hmong-authored book to gain national distribution from a literary press. Yang’s latest book, “The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father,” is the first Hmong book to ever receive national recognition.

David Brooks Oct. 22, 2019

A bi-weekly columnist for The New York Times and a regular analyst on PBS Newshour and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” David Brooks is a keen observer of the American way of life and a savvy analyst of present-day politics and foreign affairs. His New York Times bestseller “The Road to Character” explains why selflessness leads to greater success. Brooks worked at The Weekly Standard, joining the magazine at its inception. He was also a contributing editor at Newsweek and Atlantic Monthly before working nine years at The Wall Street Journal, where he became the op-ed editor.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Nov. 19, 2019

Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an Emmy Award–winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic and institution builder. Having authored seventeen books and created fourteen documentary films, Gates is one of the United States’ most influential cultural critics and is both an eloquent commentator and formidable intellectual force on multicultural and African American issues. In 2006, Gates wrote and produced the PBS documentary called “African American Lives,” the first documentary series to employ genealogy and science to provide an understanding of African American history.

Alan Stern Jan. 28, 2020

A celebrated planetary scientist and space program executive, Alan Stern is at the helm of one of the most significant and celebrated space program projects in history – NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto – completed in 2015 after more than 26 years of advocating for the trailblazing mission. Stern’s career in space exploration is extensive and features more than 25 years in space instrument development and a two-year stint as NASA’s Chief of all science missions, where he oversaw a record 10 major new flight projects and the implementation of all of NASA’s science research, education and public outreach programs.

Marcus Roberts & Greg ClarkFeb. 25, 2020

Blinded at five years old, Marthaniel “Marcus” Roberts is an American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader and teacher. Roberts began teaching himself piano at an early age, eventually joining Wynton Marsalis’s band in the 1980s. Like Marsalis’s, his music is rooted in the traditional jazz of the past. The Marcus Roberts Trio is known for its virtuosic style and entirely new approach to jazz trio performance. All members of the Marcus Roberts Trio shape the music’s direction by changing its tempo, mood, texture or form at any time. 

Greg Clark, a BYU English professor, has performed with Roberts since 2015. The Trio improvises their jazz, and Clark and Roberts discuss what musical improvisation can teach us about democratic manners – the art of getting along.

Dambisa Moyo March 24, 2020

A Zambian-born international economist and author who analyzes the macroeconomy and global affairs, Dambisa Felicia Moyo currently serves on the boards of Barclays Bank, the financial services group, Seagate Technology, Chevron Corporation, the global miner Barrick Gold and the 3M Company. She worked for two years at the World Bank and eight years at Goldman Sachs before becoming an author and international public speaker. She has written four New York Times bestselling books, with the most recent, “Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – and How to Fix It,” published in 2018.


BYU forum lectures are held at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus. Forums are free and open to the public.

Unlike devotionals, there is no guarantee Forum addresses will be broadcast. According to BYU News,

BYU’s ability to broadcast Forum speeches off campus depends on whether the speaker releases the right to broadcast. There is no guarantee the address will be broadcast, and more often than not, BYU is not given the rights to distribute the address after the fact.”

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