Donna Brazile, speaking at Amherst College. Photo by Maria Stenzel.

Donna Brazile

The veteran political strategist spoke in Stirn Auditorium on Feb. 18 on topics ranging from the presidential candidates, to poverty in America, to race relations. 

After joking that her primary-season visits to Iowa and New Hampshire “doubled the black population in both states,” Brazile got serious, highlighting the disparity between the hundreds of millions spent on campaigns and lackluster voter turnout numbers. 

“We live in a moment when we as citizens somehow abdicated the right to choose politicians,” said Brazile, a Democratic superdelegate who worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 to 2000. “It’s our duty and responsibility as citizens of this country to get out there and be a part of it.”


 

Charles Krauhammer visited campus in March of 2016. Photo by Maria Stenzel.

Charles Krauthammer

The conservative pundit pulled no punches in his criticism of President Barack Obama. But Krauthammer, who spoke in Buckley Recital Hall on March 9, also credited the commander-in-chief and his “intellectual and ideological ambitions” with sparking a beneficial national discussion.

“Over the last seven years, just about every major debate we have had as a country—from the stimulus to ObamaCare to foreign policy to deficits to debt—have all been, and can all be, subsumed under a more general question,” Krauthammer said: “What is the proper size and scope and reach of government?”  

“It is a privilege to live in a country where that is the essential question of one’s time,” said the Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator.

Krauthammer spent an hour and a half answering questions from a group of students prior to the talk. He gave full, thoughtful answers, Emmanuel Osunlana ’18 told The Amherst Student: “It wasn’t just rhetoric or buzzwords.” Krauthammer also held a long Q&A with the audience after the talk. 


 

Award-winning author Chris Abani spoke on campus in February 2016. Photo by Maria Stenzel.

Chris Abani

Through his writing and public speaking engagements, the award-winning Nigerian author has become an internationally respected voice on topics related to humanitarianism and ethics. 

His sentiments on humanity and inward reflection served as the basis for his talk in Stirn on Feb. 24. From personal anecdotes about growing up with four brothers in the Igbo culture of West Africa to a chilling tale about an interaction with a police officer who pulled him over late one night in upstate New York, Abani’s talk investigated the various roles that race, culture and language play in fashioning our sense of self and our perceptions of others. 

“The most powerful technological invention ever is language,” he said in an interview before the talk. “We are creatures of metaphor.” 


 

Anna Deveare Smith brought her one-woman-program to Amherst. Photo by Maria Stenzel.

Ana Deveare Smith

The playwright and actor has interviewed people from all walks of life, using Walt Whitman’s idea “to absorb America” as inspiration for her one-woman program. In Buckley on April 13, she transformed herself into some of these people, delivering monologues in their voices. Speaking as U.S. Rep. John Lewis, she told of his meeting with a former Klansman: “‘Mr. Lewis, I’m one of the people who beat you on May 9, 1961. I want to apologize. Will you forgive me?’” Lewis did so. In the Q&A, Smith said she does not believe she can know what anyone is thinking: “All I can do is try to sing the song they’re singing.” As one questioner said, “This reminds me why I want to commit my life to acting and social justice.”