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American Academy Lecture

Sustaining Democracies: The Role Of Conversations across Difference

The vigorous debate of competing ideas has been an essential component of well-functioning democratic societies for centuries. But in an increasingly polarized world, it has become increasingly impossible for people to have authentic conversations across different political or ideological perspectives. Various factions in our communities not only congregate in like-minded “bubbles,” they also avoid—and sometimes even vilify—the people in other bubbles. While this phenomenon has been fracturing the United States since at least 2016, there are now similar divides in democracies around the world—particularly where authoritarian leaders have been elected. In this talk, Ronald Crutcher probes the forces behind these worrisome developments, and asks what the implications are for sustaining democratic societies. He also looks at the role of higher education institutions in fostering engaged citizens.

Ronald A. Crutcher, a national leader in higher education and a distinguished classical musician, was the President of the University of Richmond from 2015-2021. Crutcher is also President Emeritus of Wheaton College in Massachusetts. Prior to Wheaton, he was Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Miami University of Ohio.  In August 2021, he was named a Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Crutcher writes and speaks widely on the value of liberal education, the democratic purposes of higher education, diversity and inclusion, and free expression on college campuses. He is Immediate Past Chair of the Board of the American Council on Education (ACE), a Senator of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, a member of the Board of Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad), and a member of the Board of Governors of Bard College Berlin.  For the University of Richmond, he serves as a board member of the Jepson Scholars Foundation and the Spider Management Company. He previously served on the boards of the Posse Foundation, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the Fulbright Association, and he was Chair of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. Throughout his 45-year career in higher education, Crutcher has consulted with higher education institutions, non-profit organizations, and corporations in the USA and abroad on issues related to organizational culture, especially bridging racial and cultural divides, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion. He is a former member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and several other symphonies. For almost forty years, he performed in the U.S. and Europe as a member of The Klemperer Trio. He has served on the boards of the Austin Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony, and the Berklee College of Music.

Crutcher began studying cello at the age of 15 with Professor Elizabeth Potteiger, a faculty member at Miami University. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in March 1985 and was the first cellist to receive the doctor of musical arts degree from Yale University, where he also earned his master’s degree. During his graduate study, he received a Fulbright Fellowship, Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, and Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Miami University (Ohio), he has received honorary degrees from Wheaton College (MA), University of Richmond, Colgate University, Muhlenberg College, Randolph-Macon College, and the University of Cordoba in Spain.

27 Apr 23
19:30 - 21:00
American Academy in Berlin
Am Sandwerder 17-19
14109 Berlin

This event took place on April 27, 2023.

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