RIT Hosts Conference Exploring Tocqueville’s America Today, Oct. 27-28




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What ails America is nothing new. Enduring issues of race, gender, religion and politics, and even the role of lawyers define this country’s national character.

On Oct. 27-28, the Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Liberal Arts and the New York Council for the Humanities will host a two-day conference, Living in Tocqueville’s America. Intended for the Rochester community, the conference will serve as a progress report on how well the United States has addressed issues first identified by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America (1835, 1840) and what remains to be done. The event celebrates Humanities Month and, belatedly, the 200th anniversary of Tocqueville’s birth in 1805.

RIT professors Joseph Fornieri and Laurence Winnie organized the conference with the help of a $7,800 grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. The idea for the event grew from a class they co-taught last year.

“With the exception of Abraham Lincoln, I think no one understood democracy as well,” Fornieri says. “Tocqueville’s diagnoses of the problems of democracy remain today.”

Winnie adds: “Tocqueville identified what would be permanent issues in American democracy. We still have to go back to these issues and work on them.”

Guest speakers and community leaders will participate in the panels and discussions focusing on gender in American society; the role of law and lawyers in American democracy; race in American society; and American religion and American democracy. Keynote speaker Mark Lilla, professor of social thought at the University of Chicago, will give his talk at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 27.

The events on Oct. 27 will take place in RIT’s Student Alumni Union. All the panels and discussions on Oct. 28 will be held in the College of Liberal Arts. For more information about the event, call (585) 475-2057.

Internationally recognized as a leader in computing, imaging, technology, fine and applied arts, and education of the deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology enrolls 15,500 students in more than 340 undergraduate and graduate programs. Its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For the past decade, U.S. News and World Report has ranked RIT as one of the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is also included in The Fiske Guide to Colleges, as well as Barron’s Best Buys in Education.