McCourtney Institute spring events to explore the future of American democracy

January 08, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Following a tumultuous election and violence in Washington, many observers of American democracy are asking whether the United States will come together as a nation or follow the path toward authoritarianism taken by countries around the world.

Three speakers hosted by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy in the coming weeks — Donna Shalala, Anne Applebaum and Danielle Allen — will address that question from several angles as part of the institute's virtual event series.

The series begins with Shalala on the future of the Democratic Party at 4 p.m. on Jan. 28. Most recently, Shalala was the U.S. representative for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Shalala previously served as U.S. secretary of health and human services, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and president of the University of Miami.

Shalala and McCourtney Institute for Democracy Director Michael Berkman will discuss how Democrats might resolve inter-party conflicts and set an agenda with control of Congress and the presidency. This event is a follow-up to the institute’s conversation with Charlie Dent on the future of the Republican Party in November.

At 3 p.m. on Feb. 17, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum will present a lecture on her book “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism.” Applebaum is a staff writer at The Atlantic and was one of the first American journalists to raise an alarm about anti-democratic trends in the West.

Applebaum’s lecture will show how authoritarian and would-be authoritarian leaders in countries around the world use conspiracy theories, political polarization, social media and even nostalgia to change their societies.

Finally, the institute will welcome Harvard University political theorist Danielle Allen at 4 p.m. on Feb. 25 to discuss “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century,” which she co-authored for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as part of its Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship.

Allen is the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard and co-chaired the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship with Stephen Heintz of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Eric Liu of Citizen University.

All three virtual events are free and open to the public. Visit for more information and to register.

Last Updated January 11, 2021