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Story in the Public Square

The Pell Center at Salve Regina University

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Story in the Public Square is a weekly, 30-minute series that brings audiences to the intersection of storytelling and public affairs. Hosted by Jim Ludes and G. Wayne Miller, Story in the Public Square offers a spirited but respectful dialogue. Often funny, always provocative, each episode of Story in the Public Square moves beyond traditional public affairs programming to consider the impact of narrative and storytelling on public life today.
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The myth is that anyone who works hard, saves their money, and makes good decisions, can develop wealth in the United States. But Louise Story and Ebony Reed document the long and painful history of the structures, policies and practices that have resulted in a profound wealth gap between Black and White Americans. Louise Story is a professor at Ya…
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In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration held a hearing to review a drug previously approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. The hearing was fraught with concerns over the drug’s safety competing with cancer patients who felt they were alive because of the drug. Dr. Mikkael Sekeres was on the panel receiving testimony, and weighing …
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For thousands of years, a mix of truth, lies, and down-right myths have shaped medicine’s understanding of the female body. While the modern era has seen progress, Dr. Elizabeth Comen tells us those narratives about women and their bodies continue to shape the care provided women today. Comen is a Medical Oncologist specializing in breast cancer at…
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As a best-selling author, Sebastian Junger has taken us to sea with an ill-fated fishing boat and, as a documentarian, shown us the reality of war in Afghanistan. But his new book is his most intensely personal, a look at his own health crisis, the near-death experience it triggered, and how it shaped his views on an afterlife. Sebastian Junger is …
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Immigration remains a hot-button in American politics, but Javier Zamora tells the story of his own entry into the United States—a journey and a story that put a human face on the issue. Zamora is the author of “SOLITO,” his New York Times bestselling memoir and is the 2024 Reading Across Rhode Island Selection. Born in La Herradura, El Salvador in…
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Racism is often described as an individual failing, but Dr. Tricia Rose explains that racism is better understood as the result of a system built over generations and even centuries—and perpetuated by the stories we tell about it today. Rose is the Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies and Associate Dean of the Faculty for Special Initiatives,…
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At the height of World War II, American military commanders created a unit dedicated to deception to give Allied forces an advantage on the battlefield. The artists, sound technicians, and radio operators of the so-called Ghost Army remained hidden for decades, but filmmaker Rick Beyer made sure their stories were told. Beyer is a New York Times be…
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Public education has a long and varied history in the United States. But Laura Pappano says the challenges it faces now from parent-activists and partisan politics is unlike anything America’s schools have seen. Pappano is an award-winning journalist and author who has written about K–12 and higher education for over 30 years. A former education co…
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The novelist has a way of exploring issues—putting flesh on bones—to tell stories about people that can educate, inform, sometimes inspire, and often anger. Vanessa Lillie uses that art form to shine a light on challenges facing native communities and native women, in particular. Lillie is the author of the 2023 USA Today bestselling suspense novel…
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The poet’s ability to capture meaning with words has long been one of humanity’s great gifts. Brian Turner has that muse and uses poetry to explore enduring questions of love and loss. Turner is the author of five collections of poetry “Here, Bullet;” “Phantom Noice;” “The Wild Delight of Wild Things;” “The Dead Peasant’s Handbook” and “The Goodbye…
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The history of 20th century autocracy seemed to race into the distance with the end of the Cold War. But Dr. Timothy Snyder cautions that in the decades since 1989, the West has seen the rise of new autocratic movements—some in traditional adversaries and some much closer to home. Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale Universi…
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Thomas Jefferson famously said he’d prefer newspapers without government over government without newspapers. In large parts of the United States today, government exists without independent news sources—undermining accountability and diminishing civic participation. Ellen Clegg and Dan Kennedy tell us that despite these troubling trends, there’s mu…
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We take for granted that the “immigrant experience” is part of the American story. But in an epic new history Daniel Schulman tells the story of the Jewish immigrants who built some of America’s biggest financial institutions and transformed America. A best-selling author, Schulman is known for his first book, “Sons of Wichita,” a biography of the …
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Working together across party lines is anathema to much of political Washington, but Margaret Spellings says doing so is the only way to create solutions that last. A nationally recognized leader in public policy, Spellings serves as President and CEO of the Bipartisan Policy Center. Previously, Spellings was President and CEO of Texas 2036, presid…
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Hollywood’s annual night-of-nights is upon us with the Academy Awards around the corner. Pete Hammond helps us take stock of the film industry and the films singled out for their powerful storytelling this year. Hammond, widely considered the pre-eminent awards analyst for film and television, is Deadline’s Awards Columnist covering the Oscar and E…
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It's easy to listen to the news and conclude that we have never been more gripped by the so-called “Culture Wars.” But Kliph Nesteroff argues just the opposite: today’s conflict isn’t a fluke, it’s part of a long history of conflict, controversy and recrimination. Canadian comic Kliph Nesteroff is, according to the New York Times, the “premier popu…
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To some, the civil rights era seems like ancient history, but to others, it’s within living memory. Françoise N. Hamlin helps put the history of the era into a broader context about who we are as a people and what it means to be an American. Hamlin is the Royce Family Associate Professor in history and Africana studies at Brown University. Prior to…
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Free speech is under assault in educational settings, school committees, university boards and political rallies across the United States. Suzanne Nossell warns the danger isn’t just about our access to books and ideas, but to the fundamental human rights and political freedoms we all hold dear. Nossell currently serves as the Chief Executive Offic…
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It’s easy to look at American politics, now, and find individuals for whom loyalty to party or an individual leader is the only thing that matters. But Richard Aldous tells us of another time when service to the nation was the highest service in public life. Aldous is the Eugene Meyer Professor of British history and Culture at Bard College and spe…
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Most who write about politics focus on the horse-race of elections or the specifics of policies. But Joanna Weiss says we should view American politics—especially current American politics—through a pop-culture lens. Weiss is the executive director of the AI Literacy Lab at Northeastern University, a project to connect journalists and technologists…
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There was a time in the United States—not that long ago, actually—when local newspapers played an undisputed positive role in holding people in authority to account. Daniel Golden is a journalist practicing his craft in that great tradition. Golden is a Boston-based senior editor and reporter at ProPublica. He has been instrumental in three Pulitze…
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Writing and creative expression have long been among the defining characteristics of humanity as a species. But Naomi Baron chronicles the rise of artificial intelligence and its myriad abilities to write, to compose, to create—and what it means for our humanity. Baron’s research interests include language and technology, reading, first language ac…
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Persistent Organic Pollutants: you don’t need a Ph.D. in chemistry to recognize realize they are dangerous. But Dr. Rainer Lohmann has been studying POPs for some time and their danger to the environment and human beings. Lohmann’s research combines marine organic geochemistry and environmental chemistry to study recalcitrant organic compounds, inc…
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The year began with chaos in the U.S. House of Representatives and ended much the same. Along the way, we saw technology demonstrate its potential to reshape human productivity and creativity; we have seen wars and violence; and we have worried aloud about the health of American Democracy. Dr. Evelyn Farkas helps us take stock of all of that and na…
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From the violence in the Middle East to the dysfunction in Congress, the world feels increasingly untethered. Tom Nichols spent his early career analyzing threats to American security and now is unapologetic in his warnings about the threats to American democracy. Nichols is an author and a staff writer for The Atlantic. His expertise encompasses a…
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The elements of a scary story might be exotic, super-natural, or even mundane. Tananarive Due weaves all of those things together in an ethereal world of her creation to explore the violence of the Jim Crow South. Due is an award-winning author who teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at the University of California-Los Angeles. She is an executiv…
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Globalization is often portrayed as the bogeyman in American politics. Thomas Barnett credits it with making the world better, more peaceful, and even more equitable. In the future, he argues, it will continue to drive even more profound shifts in the way the world operates—with real challenges for American leadership and security. ​​Barnett is a s…
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Everyone faces challenges in life, but when those challenges are born of trauma, the challenge to persevere becomes more daunting. Dr. Jonathan DePierro discusses the science of resilience and how we can all thrive in the wake of adversity. DePierro is the Associate Director of the Center for Stress, Resilience and Personal Growth which provides co…
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The transition from childhood to adulthood ushers in a wide variety of difficult questions like who actually loves us, and why. Nyani Nkrumah explores those coming-of-age themes, as well as issues of race, identity, trauma, and who is responsible for the person we actually are. Nkrumah was born in Boston and grew up in Ghana, West Africa and later …
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For too long, the history we’ve considered “America’s” has really just been the history of European conquest. Ned Blackhawk argues that there is no American history without its first, indigenous inhabitants. Blackhawk is a Professor of History and American Studies at Yale. He is the author of “Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the earl…
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All over the world, girls face challenges—and outcomes—far worse than boys—a fact borne out by research on different continents and in different societies. But Dale Bourke says that the challenges facing girls shouldn’t overwhelm us; they should inspire us.    Bourke is an award-winning writer and editor who has served as president of the CIDRZ Fou…
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One constant human wish is for the longevity of the people we love. Bill Kole explores the coming era of “super-aging,” where more and more of us will live more than a century, with dramatic consequences for retirement, finances, relationships, and even the politics of the next century. Kole, the author of “The Big 100: The New World of Super- Agin…
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The United States is both the richest country on Earth, and yet beset with a crushing poverty that saddles too many Americans. Dr. Matthew Desmond is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and sociologist who says the reality of American poverty is sustained by those who benefit from it. ​​Matthew Desmond is a professor of sociology at Princeton Universit…
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In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that love is love is love and marriage equality became recognized in all 50 states. Brad Sears warns, however of legislative efforts across the country to roll back LGBTQ rights. Sears is the Founding Executive Director and Rand Schrader Distinguished Scholar of Law and Policy at the Williams Institute. He is also t…
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Every generation seems to lament the decline in public virtues, morality, and decency. But Adam Mastroianni argues that those perceptions are generally not rooted in reality. Mastroianni is an experimental psychologist and author of the science blog, “Experimental History.” He earned his doctorate in psychology from Harvard in 2021, and his work ha…
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Architecture is about the built environment. But Justin Brown helps lead a firm whose mission is to use architecture to help move communities forward, promote social justice and healing, and expand the possibilities of tomorrow for cities and their residents. Brown is a co-founder and Principal at MASS Design Group focused on expanding architectura…
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In grade school, we might learn history in class and think of it as a straightforward recitation of facts and dates. Dr. Jade McGlynn however, explains that history’s stakes are high—shaping the collective memories and national narratives that can prepare a nation for great trials and even conflict. McGlynn is an author and Research Fellow at the D…
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For longer than anyone can remember, politicians and concerned citizens have asked ‘what kind of world are we leaving our children?’ Elizabeth Rush grappled with that question in a very personal way when she journeyed to Antarctica’s fragile glaciers to chronicle the work of scientists trying to understand the realities of a changing climate. Rush …
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Schools are at the heart of communities across the United States, and teachers are at the heart of each school. Alexandra Robbins shares a year in the life of three teachers, the schools in which they teach, and the children whose lives they shape Robbins is the author of five New York Times bestselling books, is an investigative reporter and a rec…
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The photographers eye sees things the rest of us might not. Haruka Sakaguchi uses the camera to tell stories about cultural identity and intergenerational trauma. Sakaguchi is a Japanese documentary photographer based in New York City. She was born in Osaka, Japan and immigrated to the US with her parents when she was three months old. Sakaguchi’s …
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The myth is that technology is unbiased, but says the truth is more complex and explains how bias and discrimination creep into the algorithms that shape the modern world. Broussard is a data journalist and an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University, research director at the NYU Alliance for Public In…
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For all of the excitement and glamour, professional female athletes still lag well behind their male counterparts in terms of how much they earn, the power they wield in their profession, and the respect afforded them. Macaela MacKenzie shows that this phenomenon in sports is no different from the experience of women across American society. MacKen…
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Justice is supposed to be blind. But Elie Honig says that individuals blessed with power, fame, and money have advantages in the criminal justice unavailable to most Americans. Honig is a former New Jersey and federal prosecutor with extensive experience leading and managing criminal trials and appeals. He provides strategic advice to individuals a…
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Political polarization is at epidemic levels in the United States—shaping national politics, friendships, and even family dynamics. But Peter T. Coleman says it doesn’t have to be that way—that each of us can adopt simple practices to reduce the polarization in our lives and in our communities. Dr. Coleman is Professor of Psychology and Education a…
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Poetry comes in many forms. Dr. Joshua Bennett explores the history of “spoken word” and its expansion of the contours of poetry and its ability to capture the urgent, social issues of the day. Bennett is the author of five award-winning books of poetry, criticism, and narrative nonfiction, including “Spoken Word: A Cultural History,” “The Study of…
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Soldiers know what it means to keep the faith—a character trait valued in others given the grim realities of fighting on distant battlefields. Shafo Sahil and Matt Waters know the bond borne of shared battlefield experience and can help us understand what recent Hollywood portrayals got right and what they got wrong. Shafo Sahil was an interpreter …
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Anyone who has ever enjoyed watching sports will typically concede that part of the appeal is absolute wonder at the skill, drive, courage, and commitment it takes to perform at the highest levels. Jamie MoCrazy embodied all of those attributes as an extreme skier until a traumatic brain injury ended her competitive career. MoCrazy is an American f…
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It’s been said that the history of an era is written in the countless acts of individuals, doing their best to live their own lives. Ilyon Woo shares the story of one married couple whose personal journey—literally and figuratively—charts the course of the United States in the dozen years before the American Civil Car. Woo is the New York Times bes…
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The pantheon of writers focused on climate change ranges from scientists and scholars to poets lamenting the loss of our environment. Jake Bittle documents the impact of climate on people, including the great migration of Americans caused by changes to the Earth’s environment. Bittle is an author and climate change specialist for the non-profit mag…
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So much of our modern life is built upon simplifying the complex. We reduce social interactions to likes and follows on social media and dilute the “news” in our favorite echo chambers. But Azar Nafisi warns that life is not simple, and the complexity found in great literature is ultimately liberating of the mind and essential to the health of our …
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