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State of Democracy Summit

March 25, 2021

Rebroadcast: April 11, 2021 at 5 pm ET

Proudly presented in collaboration with Knight Foundation, ProPublica and Craig Newmark Philanthropies

The 2020 election season and its aftermath is perhaps one of the most tumultuous times in recent history: bringing longstanding tensions in America into violent relief and testing core pillars of the democratic process as never before. Where does America go from here? How can we protect the future of democracy—not just in America, but around the world?


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The State of Democracy

Yuval Levin, Danielle Allen, Jill Lepore, Hari Sreenivasan, moderator

2020 has raised vital questions about American democracy, whom it serves and how it functions. And even before the renewed calls for social justice, the impact of a global pandemic and the violent response to the 2020 election, faith in democracy had been declining, particularly among younger Americans. How did America get here and where do we go now?

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Art and Democracy

Richard Blanco, Mahogany L. Browne, Kai Wright, moderator

How can and does art strengthen democracy? And what role can—and do—artists play in deepening our understanding of America—the idea and the reality—and one another? How do we support the potential of art to share new narratives, perspectives and voices? We are joined by Richard Blanco, inaugural poet, and Mahogany L. Browne, author of Black Girl Magic to share work and reflections.

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Local Democracy

Mayor Svante Myrick, Ithaca, NY

Mayors have been called “democracy’s real engine of change.” How can local officials empower people to be more involved in their communities and build a stronger, more resilient democracy from the ground up?

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How America Votes

Jocelyn Benson, Brad Raffensperger, David Becker, moderator
Introduction by Evette Alexander, Knight Foundation

What does the future hold for elections and how can we ensure that elections are accurate, safe and fair? In the aftermath of one of the most contentious elections in U.S. history, what policies and approaches can ensure that all Americans trust both the process of elections and the results? What worked, and what do we still need?

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Technology, Democracy, and Misinformation

Debora Plunkett, Jeff Kao, Jevin West, Emily Tisch Sussman, moderator
Introduction by Craig Newmark

Has technology fundamentally changed democracy, and is it for better? Worse? Both? How does a nation wrestle with the spread of dangerous misinformation that negatively impacts democracy? And what policies and approaches should govern, manage and channel the force of technology in the future?

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The Role of the Press

Josie Duffy Rice, Wesley Lowery, Jay Rosen, Stephen Engelberg, moderator

In a time when voters urgently need a more robust, independent press, the business model for news is collapsing. Readers who once relied on local papers to be trustworthy sources of information are turning to internet platforms that peddle misinformation and paranoid delusions. Can we have a democracy without an agreed set of facts? What role can the press play in making sure voters have the information they need to make informed decisions? Are there things the government or press should be doing differently to protect democracy?

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Democracy on Film

Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Ben Feinstein

Boys State, the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Sundance Film Festival follows a thousand Texas high school seniors as they gather for an elaborate mock exercise in democracy: building their own state government. The film paints a complex portrait of democracy in action - it's pitfalls and advantages - and manages to plant seeds of hope at this fraught time for American democracy.

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Late Night Democracy

Amber Ruffin, Sarah Cooper, Ashley Nicole Black, Aparna Nancherla, moderator

What is the role of comedy and satire in our democracy? How do comedians and late show writers choose their topics and make democracy funny? From television to stand up, how do comedians address the line between humor and reliable information? And what does that mean for audiences?

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Democracy in Public

Chelina Odbert, Eric Klinenberg, Priya Parker, moderator
Introduction by Lilly Weinberg, Knight Foundation

As America becomes more ideologically divided along geographic lines, what roles can public spaces—both physical and digital—play in fostering public discourse and bridging divides? How do we ensure “public squares” are truly accessible, equitable and designed to promote democracy? And how does the concern for security in a highly volatile time impact this conversation?

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