About the Symposium on Democracy

The Symposium on Democracy was established at Washington & Jefferson College in 2018 during the first year of John C. Knapp’s presidency. Held in February during the week of Presidents Day, the Symposium seeks to explore deeper angles and perspectives of issues that impact democracy and the way it functions around the world.

The first Symposium on Democracy featured lectures by guest authors Stephen B. Young and Dr. Richard Carwardine, both internationally-renowned experts on democracy. It also highlighted panel discussions led by students and faculty members, exhibits in the Clark Family Library, and participation by the W&J community.

The 2019 Symposium honed in on a single topic: “Courageous Conversations: Civil Discourse in Divisive Times” and included keynote lectures by former lieutenant governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, author Kerwin Swint, Ph.D., and artist Robert Shetterly.

TOM Talk at Symposium
Fulbright Fellow Mohamed Nawab Bin Mohamed Osman, Ph.D., speaks about ìThe Rise of Religious Nationalism and the Crisis of Democracyî during the afternoon breakout sessions of the Symposium on Democracy February 17, 2020 in the Howard J. Burnett Center at Washington & Jefferson College.

In 2020, “Fragility & Resilience: Democracy in Today’s World” was the Symposium theme, exploring the democracy movement in Hong Kong, press freedom, and related topics with activist Nathan Law, New York Times editor Serge Schmemann, and Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz.

Speakers are being announced for the 2021 Symposium on Democracy, which will focus on the theme “Democracy in Times of Crisis: When Freedom and Security Collide.” The event, which will be held in a virtual format due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, will explore past and current events in the U.S. and abroad that give rise to pressing questions: When, if ever, should democratic societies allow individual rights and freedoms to be limited in the interest of security? Who should have the power to decide? Are minority and economically disadvantaged groups at greater risk in either case? How much power should governments have to suspend rights and freedoms in times of fear?