Marian Miner Cook

A distinctive
feature of social and
cultural life at CMC

March, 2021

Tuesday, March 02, 2021 - Evening Program
Can the Republican Party be Saved?
Oren Cass, Mona Charen, and John Wood, Jr., panelists; Jon Shields, moderator

In the wake of the Capitol insurrection, a second impeachment of Trump, and losing control of the House, Senate, and White House, what will become of the Republican Party? Will it be convulsed from within for its soul? Will it become even more gripped by prejudice and conspiracy theory? Or can it transform into a multi-ethnic party of the working class? Leading a panel discussion on the future of the Republican Party, Jon Shields, professor of government at CMC, will be joined by Oren Cass, executive director of American Compass and former domestic policy advisor for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Mona Charen, journalist and policy editor at The Bulwark and former speech writer for Nancy Reagan, and John Wood, Jr., national ambassador for Braver Angels and former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County. 

Oren Cass is the executive director of American Compass, whose mission is to restore an economic orthodoxy that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity. From 2015 to 2019, Cass was a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, where his work on strengthening the labor market addressed issues ranging from the social safety net and environmental regulation to trade and immigration to education and organized labor. Prior to his time at the Manhattan Institute, Cass held roles as the domestic policy director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and as a management consultant in Bain & Company’s Boston and New Delhi offices.

Mona Charen is a columnist, journalist, political commentator, and writer. She often writes about foreign policy, terrorism, politics, poverty, family structure, public morality, and culture. Charen wrote for National Review magazine, where she was an editorial assistant starting in 1979. Later she joined the staff of First Lady Nancy Reagan as a speechwriter. She subsequently worked on President Ronald Reagan's staff, in the White House Office of Public Liaison and in the Office of Communications. She currently is the policy editor of The Bulwark, a nationally syndicated columnist, and host of The Bulwark’s Beg to Differ podcast. 

John Wood Jr. is a national ambassador for Braver Angels, whose mission it is reduce American political polarization and to promote productive conversation across ideological lines. A former vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, Wood is a musical artist and a respected writer and speaker on subjects including racial and political reconciliation. In 2014, Wood ran against Maxine Waters for her seat in California's 43rd Congressional District.

Jon Shields, associate professor of government at CMC, will moderate the conversation.

This panel discussion is sponsored by the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World at CMC.

Thursday, March 04, 2021
Reframing Sex Positivity in a Socially Isolated World
Kelly Neff

The anxiety, uncertainty and cancel-culture that has emerged in response to the pandemic has led to a resurgence of sex negative attitudes valuing judgement and fear over autonomy and self-expression. Kelly Neff, Ph.D., author of “Sex Positive,” explores how sex positivity can help us heal from the devastating effects of social isolation and loneliness brought on by this past year, and how we can cultivate resilience and positive attitudes even when our sexual needs and desires may have shifted dramatically or been put on hold indefinitely.

Kelly Neff, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, author, professor, futurist, and talk-radio personality who brings to the transformational media world her unique focus on the intersection of psychology, consciousness, and human sexuality. 

An academically trained research psychologist, she received her B.A. (2004) in Psychology magna sum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University and her M.A. (2006) and Ph.D. (2010) in Social Psychology from Claremont Graduate University.
Committed to exploring the leading edge of psychology and technology, she wrote her first book, “Teaching Psychology Online in 2013,” and followed it up with articles on sex, consciousness, psychology, and futurism that have been read and shared tens of millions of times. Her hit show Lucid Planet Radio has attracted expert guests across the sciences, popular culture, and esoteric traditions and has been streamed to hundreds of thousands of listeners since it premiered in 2015. 

Neff’s newest effort, “Sex Positive” (2020), seeks to empower sexual freedom, inspire healing, and improve people’s relationships by fusing cutting-edge scientific findings with Eastern philosophies and her own insights. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - Evening Program
Modern Leadership: Accelerating Diversity and Inclusion from the Top
Brian Stafford

Diligent Corporation has quietly become one of the largest SaaS companies on the planet, providing governance software to nearly 20,000 organizations globally. Following the events of 2020, Diligent has called on its network of board members and executives to positively impact diversity from the top. CEO Brian Stafford will share details on the initiative that is changing the board succession planning process and reflect on the role companies should play to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society. 


Brian Stafford is CEO of Diligent Corporation, a pioneer of modern governance technology. He is responsible for all day-to-day operations, with a focus on accelerating global growth and incorporating scale into the business in order to seamlessly manage the growth. Previously, Stafford served as a partner at McKinsey & Company, where he founded their Growth Stage Tech Practice, and was also the founder of CarOrder. He holds a Master’s in Computer Science from the University of Chicago and a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Thursday, March 18, 2021 - Evening Program
COVID-19: Should Schools Be Open?
Vinay Prasad

Every discussion or debate around COVID-19 has become protracted, political, and bitter, and what to do about schools is no exception. Indeed schools present a tradeoff. When they're open, society benefits from the essential services schools provide: education, child abuse reporting, hot meals, and socio-emotional development. Closing them may theoretically slow viral spread. How should a society decide? Vinay Prasad, M.D. and M.P.H., a practicing hematologist-oncologist and associate professor in the department of epidemiology and bio-statistics at the University of California San Francisco, will make the case that unless the local healthcare system is approaching overload or collapse, schools should remain open. 

Vinay Prasad, M.D. and M.P.H., is a practicing hematologist-oncologist and associate professor in the department of epidemiology and bio-statistics at the University of California San Francisco. He studies cancer drugs, health policy, clinical trials, and better decision making. He is author of over 250 academic articles, and the books Ending Medical Reversal (2015), and Malignant (2020). He hosts the oncology podcast Plenary Session.

Dr. Prasad's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at CMC.

Monday, March 22, 2021 - Evening Program
Yusef Komunyakaa: An Evening of Poetry and Reflections
Yusef Komunyakaa

First alerted to the power of language through his grandparents, who were church people, and for whom the "sound of the Old Testament informed the cadences of their speech,” award winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa's poetry weaves together personal narrative, jazz rhythms, and vernacular language to create complex images of life in peace and in war, in places near and far, and of experiences old and new.

Photo credit: Arthur Elgort

Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. The son of a carpenter, Komunyakaa has said that he was first alerted to the power of language through his grandparents, who were church people: “the sound of the Old Testament informed the cadences of their speech,” Komunyakaa has stated. “It was my first introduction to poetry.” Komunyakaa went on to serve in the Vietnam War as a correspondent; he was managing editor of the Southern Cross during the war, for which he received a Bronze Star. He earned a BA from the University of Colorado Springs on the GI Bill, an MA from Colorado State University, and an MFA from the University of California-Irvine.

In his poetry, Komunyakaa weaves together personal narrative, jazz rhythms, and vernacular language to create complex images of life in peace and in war. Komunyakaa’s early work includes the poetry collections "Dedications & Other Darkhorses" (1977) and "Lost in the Bonewheel Factory" (1979). Widespread recognition came with the publication of "Copacetic" (1984), which showcased what would become his distinctive style: vernacular speech layered with syncopated rhythms from jazz traditions. His next book "I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head" (1986) won the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; "Dien Cai Dau" (1988), a book that treated his experience in the Vietnam War in stark and personal terms, won the Dark Room Poetry Prize. It is regularly described as one of the best books of war poetry from the Vietnam War. The collection explores the experience of African American soldiers in the war as well as captures the embattled Southeast Asian landscape. Komunyakaa’s "Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems"(1994) won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

In 2011 Komunyakaa was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999-2005. He has taught at numerous institutions including University of New Orleans, Indiana University, and Princeton University. Currently he serves as Distinguished Senior Poet in New York University’s graduate creative writing program.

Photo credit: Arthur Elgort

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - Evening Program
Representation and Responsible Leadership: A Conversation with Candace Valenzuela '06
Candace Valenzuela '06

Candace Valenzuela ’06 began her political career when she ran for office in 2017 and was elected to the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District board in Texas as an at-large representative, defeating an 18-year incumbent. She worked to ensure that the district be inclusive and welcoming to students of all backgrounds. In 2020, Valenzuela ran for Congress in Texas’s 24th District focusing her campaign on building a diverse grassroots movement to uplift all hardworking families. Her public service aspirations are rooted in her deep-seated belief that access to the political process and representation matter critically and that government leaders should always strive to work directly for the people in their communities.

Candace Valenzuela ’06 has devoted her life to fighting for opportunities for others, especially for access to education. She first ran for her local school board to improve Texas schools, becoming the first Latina and first African-American woman to serve on the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board. In 2020, running on a platform to stand up for all Texas children and their families, Valenzuela was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Texas’s 24th District. She is an advocate for greater fiscal transparency and expansion of STEM education, vocational training, and coding academies in district schools.

The daughter of U.S. Army veterans, Valenzuela was born in El Paso, Texas, into a family with generations of military service. Her great-grandfather came to the United States from Mexico, eventually fighting in World War I. Subsequently, her grandfather fought in World War II. She often says that her father once jumped out of airplanes for a living, while her mother fixed them.

Her lived experiences motivate her views and political passions. The first in her family to graduate from college, Valenzuela attended Claremont McKenna College on a full scholarship. Appreciative of such an opportunity, she is determined to fight for access to education for all.

Ms. Valenzuela’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Women and Leadership Alliance, the Berger Institute for Individual and Social Development, the Kravis Leadership Institute, and the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights, all at Claremont McKenna College.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - Evening Program
Polemic in the Reformation: Lessons for Today
S. Amanda Eurich

Amanda Eurich, professor of history at Western Washington University and author of "Polemic's Purpose," will discuss how the practice of polemic in the Protestant Reformation polarized public discourse and civic society. The ways in which theologians on both sides of the religious divide—Catholic and Protestant—weaponized word and image against their rivals is a cautionary tale for the 21st century.

Amanda Eurich is a professor of history at Western Washington University and author of "The Economics of Power: The House of Foix-Navarre-Albret during the Wars of Religion" and numerous essays on the politics and culture of religious violence in early modern France. She is a recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, and most recently, the Meeter Center of Calvin University. Her current research explores the radicalization of religious identity through the writings and correspondence of the sixteenth-century jurist, Jean de Coras, known to Anglophone audiences as the judge who presided over the trial of Martin Guerre.