Fragility & Resilience: Democracy in Today’s World

Led by expert speakers, faculty and students, the Symposium on Democracy is held each year on Presidents Day and examines issues and challenges inherent in sustaining democratic societies and institutions. Founded in the last days of the American Revolutionary War, Washington & Jefferson College has been committed to fostering democracy and responsible citizenship for well over two centuries.


Morning Breakout Sessions

February 17, 2020 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Olin Theater


February 17, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Afternoon Keynote: “Students as Agents of Change: The Movement for Democracy in Hong Kong”

Nathan Law

February 17, 2020 @ 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm
James David Ross Family Recreation Center

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

February 17, 2020 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Howard J Burnett Center

Evening Keynote: “Press Freedom Under Attack: A Threat to Democracy”

Serge Schmemann

February 17, 2020 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Allen Ballroom, Rossin Campus Center


February 17, 2020 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

TOM Talks, hosted by the Washington Fellows

February 17, 2020 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm



Michael Abramowitz


Nathan Law

SERGE new pic

Serge Schmemann

Video Playlist

Photo Gallery

symposium on democracy 2020 Michael J. Abramowitz

Reading List

Resources (Michael Abramowitz) 

  • Touching directly on the focus of the Symposium, an article on Democracy in Retreat Freedom in the World 2019 is available or read the full PDF report.
  • Freedom in the World 2019 Map allows you to hover over each location to view a country (or territory) rating with regard to whether the country is free, partly free or not free. You can dig deeper by clicking on the country to view how the country scored in political rights and civil liberties, how the score was determined and key developments in that country.
  • The methodology that is used to arrive at Freedom in the World scores include the examination of political rights and civil liberties such as freedom of expression, religious and social freedoms, free economic activity, media independence and discrimination against minority groups and women.
  • The history of Freedom House dates back to 1941, with Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie serving as honorary co-chairpersons. A timeline is available.
  • Freedom House prepared Freedom on the Net 2019 – The Crisis of Social Media. The full PDF report discusses social media being used to manipulate elections as well as the use of social media surveillance and recommendations moving forward.

Resources (Nathan Law)

Resources (Serge Schmemann)


  • When the Wall Came Down: The Berlin Wall and the Fall of Soviet Communism by Serge Schmemann
  • Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village by Serge Schmemann