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Democracy & Debate Theme Semester Events Series

The University of Michigan’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester events provide an opportunity for learning and engagement across multiple platforms. The theme semester events seek to explore broadly three areas: free speech and exchange of ideas, what it means to be a member of a democratic society, and democratic engagement from a global perspective. These events and activities provide a forum for exploration and discussion of a range of issues at play during the 2020 election season, from structural racism to public health and inequality, immigration and climate change, voting rights, voting security, free speech, and mass incarceration.

Our collective goal is to provide unique opportunities for learning about the multifaceted social elements that constitute a democractic society and for engaging in that learning as an active member of our community. Through these activities, we seek to establish habits of active and informed democratic engagement as we continue to grapple with the multiple challenges that confront our nation and our world. Our list of events continues to grow, so we encourage you to check back frequently!


Dr. Martha Jones will discuss the role of Black women in the civil rights and voting rights movements and the ongoing struggle for voting rights for different populations, in an event that kicks off theIn Vanguard, acclaimed historian Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women’s political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons CEW+ Advocacy Symposium (“Creating Change Through Introspection, Dialogue & Action”).

Sep 11, 2020 12:00 PM EST

Join us for a virtual discussion with Larry Hogan, Governor of Maryland, about his new book, Still Standing. Barry Rabe, J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy at the Ford School and Arthur Thurnau Professor of Environmental Policy, will moderate the discussion.

Sep 16, 2020 4:00 PM EST

This event, sponsored by UMSuragge2020 & the Ford School of Public Policy, will bring together these two Secretaries in conversation on voter turnout and voter access in Michigan and Ohio:

Sep 18, 2020 8:30 AM ESTUMMA

The Edward Ginsberg Center, in partnership with University of Michigan Museum of Art, warmly invite you and your colleagues to join us for our biennial event.

The Ginsberg Center’s Dewey Series recognizes the enduring legacy of philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey, who taught at U of M in the 1890’s and, later, went on to found the New School for Social Research. Chief among Dewey’s enduring ideas were that experience is the means through which we come to understand and connect with the world around us and that universal education is the key to democracy.

This year’s theme is inspired by William James’ 1906 Essay, ‘The Moral Equivalent of War.’ While some of James’ assertions are cause for critique, his primary observation that we need to focus on building our shared public life remains more important than ever.

Sep 29, 2020 4:00 PM EST

Please join us as we commemorate the passage of the 19th amendment and welcome Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Anita Earls. Justice Earls is an African-American civil rights attorney, educator, and founder of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ). Her lecture will examine the fight for women’s suffrage in light of her experiences in voting rights mobilization in the South and bridge past and present struggles for voting rights. Organized by Political Science, the Law School, LSA.

Sponsored by: The entire Suffrage 2020 Collaboration and the Democracy and Debate Theme Semester

Zoom Meeting link:

Oct 7, 2020 4:00 PM EST

The federal deficit has reached historic levels in recent years, even before Congress passed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) in March 2020. Join us for a conversation with Lawrence H. Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury, and Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, on whether the growing federal deficit is sustainable for the United States economy. Betsey Stevenson, professor of economics and public policy, will moderate the discussion.

Oct 8, 2020 4:00 PM ESTZoom

Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts will read from his most recent collection, Felon, and discuss the ways in which incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people are left out of conversations about Democracy. This event will be an opportunity to consider the intersections between free speech, disenfranchisement, and mass incarceration. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A. Co-sponsored by the Democracy and Debate Theme Semester, the Prison Creative Arts Project, and the Michigan Quarterly Review.

To order the Fall 2020 special issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review guest edited by Reginald Dwayne Betts visit

Oct 12, 2020 11:30 AM EST

Join us for a conversation about covering the campaign trail with two senior political reporters, Jane Coaston of Vox and Daniel Strauss of The Guardian. Paula Lantz, associate dean of the Ford School and James Hudak Professor of Health Policy will moderate the conversation. The panelists will discuss what it’s like to be a political reporter during an election season and what they think are the key political and policy issues at play in the upcoming Presidential election.

Oct 12, 2020 4:00 PM EST

Panel discussion with:

StephanieChang, member of the State House of Representatives and co-founder and past president of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan;

Dessa Cosma, Executive Director of Detroit Disability Power;

Reverend Wendell Anthony, President of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP and leader of voting rights campaigns, including Take Your Souls to the Polls and Proposal 3;

Matthew L.M. Fletcher, law professor and director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University, as well as an appellate judge for numerous tribal courts.

Moderated by Michael Steinberg, Professor from Practice, UM Law School, former legal director, Michigan ACLU.

Organized by Women and Gender Studies, The Ford School, LSA

Sponsored by: The entire Suffrage 2020 Collaboration and the Democracy and Debate Theme Semester

Nov 19, 2020 6:00 PM EST

Dean Michael S. Barr will moderate a conversation with Ford School faculty members Betsey Stevenson, Shobita Parthasarathy, and John Ciorciari about the 2020 presidential election and policy priorities for the president-elect. This event is sponsored in conjunction with the University of Michigan Club of Washington, D.C.

a portrait of Angela Dillard
What makes Democracy & Debate distinctive is not only the contributions from across the university, but also the connection to the presidential election season and watch parties for the debates. This gives us the potential to have conversations that span the campus, the state and the globe. We’ve never had a theme semester with this kind of reach.
- Angela Dillard, Professor, U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Chair, Presidential Debate Academic Advisory Committee