On November 6, 2023, Park & Market welcomed the Helen Edison Lecture Series featuring New York Times columnist Charles Blow for a sold-out presentation in the Guggenheim Theater.
A familiar face on TV and a frequent target for conservative critics, Blow is known as a fearless social commentator whose words tend to spark conversation and debate about social and political issues of the day. As a speaker, he tackles contentious issues, such as racism, childhood obesity, life in large cities, and acceptance of gays in society. He has spoken on topics such as income inequality, xenophobia, teen pregnancy, education, and the relationship between journalism and justice.
At the November 6 talk, Blow brought a personal spin, homing in on individual responsibility in the face of current events. When we see the issues we care most about unfolding on the news, he queried, “how do we think about our own activities?”
Providing a historical review of progress and resistance in America, Blow illustrated predictable cycles of social advancement followed by periods of backlash and regression. He characterized this boomerang effect as the “tired and exhausting dance” that America repeats whenever underrepresented groups make progress. Delving into activism and the work that propels change, he asked poignant questions.
“So the big question here to me is this one: what do we do? Activists, average citizens, voters?,” he inquired. “When the movements and issues we care most about are in decline or in retreat? When public sentiment fades and the opposition appears to be making strides?”
His presentation concluded with a fireside chat, led by Lorie Hearn, CEO of iNewsource. Their conversation ranged from the role of journalism in crafting stories and Blow’s career background as a visual journalist to broad-ranging musings about his life as portrayed in a major opera, artificial intelligence, the Israel-Hamas war, and emerging threats to American democracy. Ultimately, he returned to his original thought about personal inquiry and responsible action.
“I’m always interested in making sure that people understand that the work that we have to do is very much internal,” said Blow. “I think what most people should do is to always see an issue and the people involved in that issue as if they were people in your family, and which you respond to the people and the issue in the same way.”
Watch the Helen Edison Lecture Series fireside chat with New York Times journalist Charles Blow and iNewsource’s Lorie Hearn, available on UCSD-TV.
For nearly four decades, the Helen Edison Lecture Series has presented free public lectures on issues that advance humanitarian purposes and objectives, in accordance with a major gift from the late San Diego philanthropist and series namesake.
For more information about the Helen Edison Lecture Series, visit the UC San Diego Extended Studies Public Lectures page.