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2014 Symposium on Democracy

Voices of the American Experience

April 22-24, 2014

The 2014 Symposium on Democracy is presented by the Wick Poetry Center, hosted by the College of Arts & Sciences, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, College of the Arts, College of Communication and Information, Honors College, University Libraries, and supported by the Department of History and Department of English.


Tuesday, April 22 

7:30 p.m.  MAC Center, KSU
This ticketed event is open to the public. Free general admission tickets are available at A limited number of $15 chairback seats are also available."

Ken Burns: Keynote Address, “Sharing the American Experience”
(also Presidential Speaker Series)
Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz, Statue of Liberty; Huey Long; Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery; Frank Lloyd Wright; Mark Twain; Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson; The War; The National Parks: America’s Best Idea; and, most recently, The Dust Bowl. Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including thirteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations; and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. His upcoming projects include a history of Prohibition, the Dust Bowl, the Roosevelts, the Vietnam War and the Central Park Jogger case.


Wednesday, April 23 

10 a.m. - noon (Oscar Richie Hall multi-purpose room)

Legislative Theater Workshop with Katherine Burke
Legislative Theatre is an dynamic, democratic, theatrical way of creating laws and policies. A group creates a play about a real problem (e.g. labor rights, environmental issues, student debt); after the play people discuss the issue, and then join in the play to help change the outcome for the better. After the audience participation, people suggest bills and policy proposals, debate for or against the ideas, and then vote! Policy makers, politicians, and government officials are invited to attend and participate. In this dynamic session, student groups and area citizens will perform scenes about local issues. Come participate in theatrical democracy in action!

Student Poster Exhibit and Panel
Undergraduate Kent State Honors students, enrolled in a semester-long Democracy Symposium Seminar, will present multi-disciplinary projects and performances on issues of democracy, citizenship, and voice. 

4 p.m.  (Kiva)

Dr. Shannon E. French, Symposium Scholar, Lecture: “From the Hearts of Chaplains to the Souls of Warriors: What a Democracy Owes to Those who Serve”
Shannon E. French
is the Inamori Professor in Ethics, Director of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, and a tenured member of the Philosophy Department with a secondary appointment in the law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. She is also a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC. Dr. French received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Brown University in 1997. Prior to starting at CWRU in 2008, she taught for eleven years as an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the United States Naval Academy and served as Associate Chair of the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law. She is the author of many scholarly publications, including The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values, Past and Present, editor-in-chief for the International Journal of Ethical Leadership, and an associate editor for the Journal of Military Ethics.

7:30 p.m.  (Kiva) 

Dramatic Reading of the play May 4th Voices by Cleveland actors
Based on the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project, begun in 1990 by Sandra Halem and housed in Kent State University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and Archives, May 4th Voices will be performed as a dramatic reading by Cleveland-area actors. Written by David Hassler for the 40th Commemoration of the events of May 4th, the play weaves voices and stories together anonymously from over 60 interviews to tell the human story of May 4th and its aftermath, capturing the sense of trauma, confusion, and fear felt by all people regardless of where they stood that day. The reading will be followed by a panel discussion and talkback moderated by Dr. Shannon E. French.

Cast: Michael Regnier, Deborah Magid, Maryann Morris, Nathan Lilly, Eric Schmiedl, Producer: John Morris, Director: William Hoffman, Stage Manager: Maryann Morris, Sound Design & DJ: RMX, Graphics Design: Jimmy Scherer


Thursday, April 24 

2:15 p.m.  (Room 310, Kent Student Center)
Martín Espada lecture and Q&A: “The Unacknowledged Legislator: A Rebuttal.”

7:30 p.m.  (Kiva)

Martín Espada poetry reading
Martín Espada
, Symposium Poet Called “the Latino poet of his generation,” Martín Espada has published more than fifteen books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems, The Trouble Ball (Norton, 2011), is the recipient of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award and an International Latino Book Award. The Republic of Poetry (Norton, 2006) received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A previous book of poems, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has received other recognition such as the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Robert Creeley Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. A graduate of Northeastern University Law School and a former tenant lawyer, Espada is currently a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.


Thursday, May 1 

6:30 pm  (Kent Student Center Ballroom) 

Giving Voice Outreach Performance
The 13th annual performance of Giving Voice features local students (grades 3-12), senior citizens, and veterans performing original poetry generated through the Wick Poetry Center’s outreach program. This Democracy Symposium performance will engage audience members in the process of listening to poets of all ages share their voice to create an atmosphere where all that speak are heard. 

Symposium Art Exhibit 

April 15-Aug 1, 2014 in the Michener Gallery. 

Response: Selected Works from the May 4th Collection, Curated by Victoria Bocchicchio.
This symposium art exhibit focuses on artists’ immediate responses to the shooting of May 4th 1970. Artists such as Richard Hamilton and Ruth Gikow, donated work to KSU’s School of Art Gallery in commemoration of the shootings, and Robert Morris led a protest by artists on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in the days immediately following the shootings demanding the museum close temporarily in mourning for the fallen students. These donated pieces, as well as artifacts representing the Met demonstrations, will be on exhibit in the Michener Gallery the month of April 2014. 

Democracy Symposia Archive

For more information on the symposium contact:

David Hassler
Symposium Co-Chair
Director, Wick Poetry Center
(330) 672-1769

Dr. Kenneth Bindas
Symposium Co-Chair
Chair, Department of History


Ken Burns

Keynote Speaker


Dr. Shannon French

Symposium Scholar


May 4th Voices

Dramatic reading of the play


Martín Espada

Symposium Poet



Giving Voice

Post-symposium Performance