The Challenges Of Democracy

Fall 2006

Tuesday, October 24 – Why Campaign Finance Reform is Crucial in Our Democracy

Across the political spectrum, Americans support efforts to reduce the impact of big money on elections. Too often, it seems that only wealthy individuals can afford to run for office, limiting the diversity of voices in government. Just as disturbing, wealthy individual donors, “527” groups, and corporations can have an undue influence on elections and even swing the outcome. Pingree will profile “clean elections” laws (such as Maine’s) that have revolutionized politics at the state level, describe efforts underway to clean up congressional elections, and relate her experiences raising money as a U.S. Senate candidate.

Chellie Pingree has been the president and CEO of Common Cause since March 2003. Prior to leading Common Cause, Pingree served for eight years in the Maine Senate, with the last four years as majority leader. She was also a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002. She was active in rural economic development issues and helped to create an economic development corporation supporting small business creation and peer lending in Maine.


Wednesday, November 15 – Economic Inequality in America: A Threat to Democracy

The inequality of wealth in the United States is now at its greatest point since the Gilded Age in 1900. A century ago our nation had a robust discussion about how much wealth inequality is healthy in a democratic, self-governing society. Today, the wealthiest one percent of the population owns and controls over a third of the nation’s wealth. We urgently need to explore the dangers to our democratic institutions when wealth and power become overly concentrated in the hands of a few.

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., and directs the Institute’s program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is an expert on inequality in the United States and author of several books, including Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity. He has led a national effort to preserve the federal estate tax, our nation’s only tax on inherited wealth. He co-authored with Bill Gates Sr., Wealth and Our Commonwealth, a case for taxing inherited fortunes.


Spring 2007

Monday, February 19 – Globalization and Democracy

Arnie Alpert, N.H. Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee since 1981; active critic and protester of the World Trade Organization

Thaddeus Guldbrandsen, Director of the Center for Rural Partnerships and Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Plymouth State University. Scholarly work examines the ways that people positively impact their communities within the context of globalization.

Sheryl L. Shirley, Associate Professor of Political Science teaching courses in International Relations, Latin American Politics, and Women’s Studies at Plymouth State University

Globalization is a real phenomenon of the 21st century. And it is accelerating. Panelists will discuss the effects of democracy and globalization on each other in New Hampshire, the United States and other countries.


Monday, March 12 – No Child Left Behind: A Threat to American Democracy?

Tonya Tookes-Reznik, Instructor of Counselor Education, College of Graduate Studies, Plymouth State University

Allan DiBiase, Adjunct, College of Graduate Studies, Plymouth State University

Joss French, Assistant Professor of Education, Plymouth State University

Kim Williams, Professor, College of Graduate Studies, Plymouth State University

This presentation will focus on the democratic challenges of No Child Left Behind, such as separation of church and state, the use of vouchers to pay for religious private education, states’ rights, the impact on low income and minority areas, and high-stakes testing.


Thursday, April 12 – China and Democracy

Xu Wenli, Institute Senior Fellow, The Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

One of China’s most recognized pro-democracy advocates, Mr. Xu spent 16 years in prison for his activities as a dissident. He was a leader in the Democracy Wall movement from 1979 to 1981, edited the Samizdat-style journal April Fifth Forum, and played a major role in establishing the Beijing-Tianjin branch of the China Democracy Party. In reaction to his declining health, international human rights groups, the U.S. Ambassador to China, and Western officials called for his release, which was achieved in December 2002. He and his wife left China immediately to be reunited with their daughter in Rhode Island.