The David and Lyn Silfen

University Forum

Irvine Auditorium | TBD

Civil Discourse in Uncivil Times

The Silfen Forum originally scheduled for March 26th, 2020 has been postponed. Due to the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), please see the announcement and comprehensive website related to all University of Pennsylvania activities and events. Further details about the 2020 Silfen Forum and possible future event dates are to be determined. Check back at silfenforum.upenn.edu for more details.
 

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    We live in an age when politicians hurl vitriol at one another across the debate stage, pundits spew rage-filled rants on cable television, and ordinary citizens engage in anonymous, ad-hominem attacks on social media.
     
    A 2018 national poll found that more than 90% of American adults believe that incivility in the public square is a problem, with 7 of 10 describing this problem as “serious” and nearly three quarters indicating that incivility is on the rise.  The decline of civility in the United States, a phenomenon acutely apparent in the political arena, has far-reaching implications and negative consequences for our nation. Research by leading political scientists suggests that incivility can lower trust in governments, reduce faith in institutions, and lessen respect for opposing viewpoints.
     
    Ten years ago, Penn President Amy Gutmann and a panel of prominent experts confronted the essential question: Is there something seriously wrong with public debate in America? And, if so, can the problem be remedied? A decade later, many of the same questions remain. What are the causes of the current state of public discourse? The consequences? Is informed civil discourse possible in a period of contentious political polarization? How can we — communities, higher education institutions, elected officials — better strike a balance between open expression and civility? Is incivility ever justified? Can robust debate and disagreement occur in ways that are passionate yet civil and informed? Are there ways to encourage and facilitate such debate? What role does higher education play? What can voters do to demand respect and civil discourse from candidates and elected officials? Can we repair our system of politics so that civil debate is the expectation and not the exception?
     
    Join President Gutmann and Penn Professor Michael Delli Carpini as they and a panel of distinguished guests confront these and other questions at the 2020 David and Lyn Silfen University Forum, “Civil Discourse in Uncivil Times.”

We welcome you back to the David and Lyn Silfen University Forum website. We’re in our eleventh year. This year's event provided once again great speakers and conversation you’ve come to expect from Penn.

President Amy Gutmann, introductions

The Christopher H. Browne Professor of Political Science and Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication.

More about Amy Gutmann

Donna Brazile

American Political Strategist, Author and Fox News Contributor

More about Donna Brazile

Hon. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush Sr.

43rd Governor of Florida, Presidential Practice Professor at the University of Pennsylvania

More about Jeb Bush

Julián Castro

16th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Former Mayor of San Antonio

More about Julián Castro

Michael Delli Carpini, moderator

Inaugural Director of the Paideia Program; Professor of Communication; Former Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication

More about Michael Delli Carpini

Peggy Noonan

Hon’18, American Author, The Wall Street Journal Columnist, NBC News and ABC News Contributor

More about Peggy Noonan

Ashley Parker

C’05; American Journalist; Pulitzer Prize-winning White House reporter for The Washington Post; Senior Political Analyst for MSNBC

More about Ashley Parker

David and Lyn Silfen

About The Silfen Forum

Learn about the Silfen family and how the forum began.

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