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Identity, Tapestry, Culture

Dear Friends.

At Duke last week, I was caught up on “tenting” and K-ville by students as we walked across the university’s emerald green campus. For those who didn’t know, “tenting” is the process by which Duke students obtain tickets to the game of great rivals, Duke versus University of North Carolina. K-ville — where the tents are lined up with fans taking shifts and waiting weeks — refers to legendary basketball coach Michael Krzyzewski. Coach K retired last year with 5 national titles, 13 Final Fours, 15 ACC tournament championships, and 13 ACC regular season titles. Not too shabby for the son of Polish working-class immigrants. Krzyzewski, whose father was an elevator operator and mother a cleaning lady, started at Catholic schools in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village.

It was Ukraine (and the Alexander Hamilton Society) that brought me to Duke for a talk about Vladimir Putin’s war. A number of students wanted to discuss Russia and what’s gone wrong. Why do so many Russians apparently support the war? How is it that authoritarian tendencies seem so strong? A student from China opined that there’s more independent thought in his country where controls on media and civil society are even stricter than in Putin’s Russia.

Frank Fukuyama has just delivered a lecture at SAIS hosted by Charles Gati on culture, national identity, and liberal democracy with special attention to Ukraine and Russia. I’ll share a copy next week. We’re also preparing an interview with Fred Starr on Russia’s future. Starr’s view is not all dark, although it must be said that he takes a long view. It should also be noted that our friend Vladimir Kara-Murza was arrested a year ago. His trial is expected to wrap up with a final verdict on Monday. Kara-Murza faces up to 25 years in prison for spreading false information on the war. We’re inviting his wife Evgenia to speak with us soon. We’ve invited president/CEO Jamie Fly to speak about RFE/RL’s work in Russia.

There are otherwise a number of offerings I want to commend:

•    Victor Monteverdi (a pseudonym) digs into (Opens in a new window) grievance, mythology, and a pathology, a Russia trapped, unable “to modernize itself through liberalization, even as the traditional means (economic, ideological, and military) of survival are shrinking.”

•    Tom Carothers and Benjamin Feldman write about (Opens in a new window) democratic bright spots around the world. They advocate policies that square the circle “of drumming up real energy and support [in Washington for democracy abroad], while conveying significant realism and staying power regarding execution.”

•    Marc Plattner has reviewed Robert Kagan’s new book, The Ghost at the Feast, the second volume of a planned trilogy. The first was Dangerous Nation (2006). The new book, spanning the era 1898 and 1941, was discussed by Marc and Bob at an event we had the pleasure of jointly co-sponsoring recently with the National Endowment for Democracy. This thanks to Michael Allen’s Penn Kemble Forum at NED and our arts and culture editor Syd Lipset.

•    Frank provides (Opens in a new window) the (likely) final installment in a nine-part series on the administrative state. He combined this work into a single lecture delivered on March 21 to the American Society for Public Administration. You can listen to the lecture here (Opens in a new window). His new essay looks back to the pandemic and delves into the relationship between political leaders and their bureaucratic agents.

•    Hyrum Lewis joins us by Zoom (Opens in a new window) on Monday, April 17, for a discussion of his new book, co-authored with his brother Verlan, The Myth of Left and Right. Hyrum and Verlan argue that “left” and “right” are more social groupings, as opposed to enduring philosophical belief systems. As a result, they contend, there must be ways to open a new political discourse that is both more accurate and less incendiary.

There’s more. We have Greta Uehling by Zoom (Opens in a new window) on Thursday, May 25, on her new book telling the story of the lives of ordinary people in the Donbas since 2014. We have Seth Cropsey writing on Iran, Chuck Lane hosting (Opens in a new window) in his podcast Microsoft’s Natasha Crampton on responsible AI, and Yale student Wiktor Babinski interviewing former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Arts, Culture, and Music

We always make space for arts, culture, and music. Our friends at PostClassical Ensemble — Angel Gil-Ordóñez conducting — have something intriguing coming up at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on April 19. It’s Spanish history and human drama (Opens in a new window)with the world premiere of Entwined: Love’s Magicians by Derek Goldman and El retablo de maese Pedro by Manuel de Falla.

On May 18, we’ll convene the next in our series with the D.C. public libraries (Rob Schneider’s West End Neighborhood branch). Last time, we had Azar Nafisi and Nolan Harris on “Why James Baldwin?” This time, we have a program titled, “Old and New American Songs” with Washington City Choir conductor Erin Freeman, Catholic University’s Michael Kimmage, and Marine Corp Band historian Philip Espe. There’s music and a lens on race, gender, and social progress in America.

Join us on May 18, and attend the Washington City Choir’s concert on June 4 (Opens in a new window) for a program of American music that includes works by Aaron Copland, Jessica Krash, Samuel Barber, Gilda Lyons, Robert Shafer, Armando Bayolo, and more.

Here’s (Opens in a new window) a bit of Copland — a bundle of social and cultural history. All of this is charming. Some of it is jarring when you pay attention to the words.

My best,


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