The Jefferson Educational Society’s Global Summit VII

Categories:  Events    Features
Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 at 10:00 AM
The Jefferson Educational Society’s Global Summit VII by Dan Schank
U.S. Government

For those of us excited about intellectual discourse, the Jefferson Educational Society’s Global Summit has been the talk of the town for seven years. It’s not just the quality of the speakers that’s so remarkable – it’s often their familiarity as well. 

As someone who tries to check in on global affairs, the Global Summit’s guests usually live on in my life long after their lectures. On my drive home from work, for example, I typically listen to NPR’s All Things Considered. Each Friday, the program invites E.J. Dionne, a left-leaning political analyst from the Washington Post, to talk politics with David Brooks, a right-leaning New York Times columnist. They’re not just familiar because they’re two of our most influential political journalists, they’re also veterans of the JES Summit. Brooks spoke in 2011; Dionne in 2009.

Sometimes the familiarity is more intimate. When Harry Markopolos came to the JES in 2013, he wasn’t as well-known as Brooks or Dionne – despite the fact that he unraveled Bernie Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme eight years before the Federal Government addressed it. But some Erie natives recognized him from the class of ’74 at Cathedral Prep.

If you’re curious about the planet you live on, the Global Summit provides an essential, local blueprint to its premiere ideas and innovations. According to the Jefferson’s Executive Director Ferki Ferati, this year’s programming is “the best in terms of academic credentials, as well as the most diverse in terms of topics.” 

If you’ve ever wondered what a trip to Mars might look like, you might get your answer at the upcoming summit. You probably haven’t considered whether or not a 3-D printer can harvest human organs, but you’ll learn how that might work as well. Some guests will address more immediately familiar concerns – like our foreign policy choices in the Middle East, or recent developments in osteopathic medicine. One speaker will examine each line in the Declaration of Independence to reveal how our founders felt about equality. In each case, you’ll leave with plenty to talk about on the drive home.

If this seems like a lot to digest, there’s no need to worry. We’ve drafted a guide to help you determine who these speakers are, what they have to say, and why we’re so excited to hear from them.

contributed photo

The Importance of Erie, Pa. In Understanding the Changing Dialectics of America’s Language – with linguist Eric Raimy, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison 

10.26 // 7:30 p.m. // Jefferson Educational Center

On radars because: Raimy approaches the way we speak from a cognitive science perspective. Give his name a google, and you’ll see that he’s known for scary sounding things like “the morphology of reduplication.” But never fear – “reduplication” is just the linguistic term for deliberately repeated words like bye-bye and no-no, or repeated words with slight variations. For example, I could use reduplication to call Raimy a fancy schmancy college professor, but I won’t because that would be rude.

Worth seeing because: Raimy is an expert on regional dialects, as well as an Erie native. Which means hepresumably thinks of soda as “pop,” and doesn’t blush at the mention of “cornhole.” As someone who has spent substantial time on both ends of Pennsylvania, I can assure you that our region is overflowing with vernacular eccentricities. Perhaps by the end of this talk they’ll seem a bit more logical.

contributed photoMission to Mars – Forwarding Our Dreams – with Bas Lansdorp, CEO and Co-Founder of Mars One 

10.27 // 7:30 p.m. // Jefferson Educational Center

On radars because: Lansdorp’s Dutch non-profit, Mars One, has made it its mission to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2027. Unsurprisingly, this presents a large number of logistical challenges, such as raising the $6 billion in start-up cash they need to pull it off. Feeding the crew, preparing them for long-term isolation, and preventing exposure to deadly radiation may prove enormously difficult – and that’s before they even set foot on the Red Planet. 

There’s been some skepticism in the press about Mars One’s visionary mission – especially after a team of MIT engineers concluded that the plan was “overly optimistic” in 2014. But this event will allow Lansdorp to tell his side of the story – which will undoubtedly prove interesting.

Worth seeing because: A permanent colony on Mars within a dozen years kinda sells itself, doesn’t it? Also, NASA’s recent discovery that there is both liquid water and ice on its surface may make Lansdorp’s mission more feasible. Plus, Hollywood tells me that Matt Damon is still stuck up there and he needs our help!

Growing Human Tissues: Can We Print Organs Instead of Transplanting Them? – with Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University

10.28 // 7:30 p.m. // Jefferson Educational Society

On radars because: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 21 Americans die each day because they were unable to secure an organ donor. Atala is hoping that 3-D printing technology can help to alleviate this problem. 

In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, he explained the logic. Atala claims that cells with regenerative potential (found through a biopsy) can be isolated, multiplied, combined with other biomaterials, and placed into a printer cartridge! He hopes that we can use these cartridges to print “organ or tissue shaped structures,” which can be implanted in people. Unconvinced? His team has already used 3-D printers to engineer things like bladders, skin, and urine tubes.

Worth seeing because: If you set aside your inability to change the office ink cartridge for a moment, it’s not hard to admire the potential that Atala’s research could have in our lives. Baby boomers are aging, people are living longer, and we are facing unique shortages every day in our hospitals. Atala’s work reminds us that a bright future is still within reach.

contributed photoGigacities: How Broadband is Reshaping the World – with Darrell West, founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution

10.30 // 7:30 p.m. // Jefferson Educational Society

On radars because: West is as knowledgeable about technological innovations as he is about our political system. In this lecture, he’ll argue that universal, open broadband is the key to an innovative and economically successful society. As the Editor-in-Chief of TechTank, a blog hosted by the Brookings Institution, he shares, analyzes, and responds to the latest advancements in science and technological policy – as well as its impact on education, health care, economic development, and governance.

Worth seeing because: A decent connection to the internet is becoming central to the way we live our lives. Increasingly, we’re using broadband connections to reduce overhead in start-up businesses, improve educational assessment, increase social engagement, and make healthcare more efficient through remote monitoring and downloadable transcripts. Better still, mobile technology has made access to the web more affordable than it was when it required a computer rather than a smart phone. Expect West to assess the impact of these changes, while highlighting the opportunities they afford us.

contributed photoGovernor Wolf: Priorities for Pennsylvania – with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf 

11.1 // 7:30 p.m. // Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy (advanced registration is required for this free event)

On radars because: This is an exclusive opportunity for civic dialogue with Pennsylvania’s recently elected governor. Although we’re less than a year into his term, Wolf has already banned fracking in our state parks and placed a moratorium on the death penalty. He has also proposed lower property taxes for most homeowners, increased spending on education, and introduced a severance tax on the natural gas industry – decisions that set his administration in stark contrast with his predecessor, Tom Corbett.

Worth seeing because: It’s tough to tell where the future will take us in the state of Pennsylvania, but for the next several years, Wolf will be at the steering wheel. Whether you love or hate him, he’ll undoubtedly have things to say that will affect your life in concrete ways.  

U.S. Foreign Policy and Our Role in the World – a panel discussion moderated by C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, with Nile Gardiner, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, and Aaron David Miller, Vice President for New Initiatives and a Distinguished Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars 

11.2 // 7:30 p.m. // Jefferson Educational Society

On radars because: The Jefferson loves a good debate. This time, we’ll have Nile Gardiner – a hawkish conservative who advised Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani on foreign policy. He’ll chat with Aaron David Miller – a cautious, thoughtful centrist who has advised Secretaries of State – on both sides of the aisle – about affairs in the Middle East. Both have problems with our recent nuclear deal with Iran, which you can expect will be addressed during the discussion.

Worth seeing because: Our nation’s place in the global sphere is constantly shifting. Tensions with Russia are up, while tensions with Iran are (possibly) down. The Islamic State is a source of constant anxiety, but attempting to address it proves difficult without trustworthy partners in the region. In short, it’s a complicated world. Perhaps this conversation will help us to make sense of it.

contributed photoAn Evening with Author, Columnist, and Television Commentator Cokie Roberts – with (you guessed it!) journalist Cokie Roberts 

 11.3 // 7:30 p.m. // Cathedral Preparatory School

On radars because: It’s tough to turn on the TV or radio without learning something from Cokie Roberts. She’s a political commentator for NPR and ABC News, as well as a frequent panelist on shows like Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Additionally, between 1996 and 2002, she co-hosted This Week with Sam Donaldson. If you’ve been following current election coverage, you’ve probably heard her voice recently.

Worth seeing because: Roberts has been clarifying the nuances of American politics for decades. In 1990, she received the Edward R. Murrow award for outstanding work on public radio. In 2008, she received the exclusive “living legend” award from the Library of Congress – an honor she shares with folks like Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem, and Martin Scorcese. In a year where Donald Trump’s poll numbers are still inexplicably rising, it may take an experienced insider like Roberts to make sense of it all.

contributed photoReading the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality – with Danielle Allen, UPS Foundation Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study 

11.4 // 7:30 p.m. // Jefferson Educational Society

On radars because: Allen recently wrote a very unusual book about the Declaration of Independence. In fifty short chapters, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality attempts to transform this seemingly well-known document into something of real civic use in the 21st century. Allen believes that the text is key to understanding our concept of political equality, through which all people should gain access to government – as well as the ability to utilize its instruments.

Worth seeing because: Too often, civic engagement can seem old-fashioned, especially when applied to our early history. Allen makes it relevant and intimate again, pulling radical and energizing ideas out of 18th century artifacts. In her hands, our founding documents are more than weapons with which to win partisan arguments. Instead, their ideas offer guidance as we plan for the future.

The Future of Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy: A Global Perspective – with Norman Gevitz, medical historian and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at A.T. Still University

11.6 // 7:30 p.m. // Bayfront Convention Center 

On radars because: Osteopathy has a long history – and Gevitz literally wrote the book about it. It’s called The DO’s: Osteopathic Medicine in America, and it documents the discipline’s transformation from a practice treated with suspicion and derision to an important instrument in our health care toolbox. The “DO’s” in his title refer to the Doctoral degree needed to employ osteopathy’s holistic, musculoskeletal approach in the U.S. Globally, osteopathic medicine is often broader in its range, scope, and diversity. Expect Gevitz to iron out the differences.

Worth seeing because: Erie has an important local connection to this history in LECOM, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. LECOM is one of the institutions currently mobilizing the rapid growth of the medical sector in our region. Gevitz was personally invited for this talk by the brother and sister team that makes up LECOM’s top leadership – President and Provost John M. Ferretti and Vice President Silvia M. Ferretti. The Ferrettis will also receive the Thomas B. Hagen Dignitas Award during this event, which is given to Erie citizens who have made substantial contributions to the world’s betterment. The ceremony should provide an excellent note to end on.

Dan Schank can be contacted at

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