It was an historic moment full of public dread and anxiety. But in the deepest chasm of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered a quintessential expression of hopeful imagination.

During his first inaugural address, he famously told the nation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Samantha Power’s political idealism—a granite faith in democracy and America’s moral duty to protect it around the world—began taking shape in 1989 on the day tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square.

Power, then a Yale student interning at an Atlanta news station, was taking notes on the Braves baseball game as she watched the scene in Beijing unfold on another screen in the newsroom. In the weeks that followed, Power couldn’t shake her discomfort—people her age were risking their lives to fight for democracy while she was watching baseball.

Paul Beninger ’73 P’09 recalls the haunting chant of gay rights activists outside Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Washington, D.C., during the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

“Give us the drugs,” the activists implored during a protest outside the FDA, where Beninger began his career in 1987 working in drug development.

“We’re dying,” he recalls them chanting.

Tara Westover speaking at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum

There are few things more quintessentially American—or fascinating to educated Americans—than the autodidact. The excitement around Monday’s kickoff event in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum proved as much.

The headliner in the first installment of CMC’s signature Ath lecture series was Tara Westover, author, historian, and self-made intellectual, who descended from the mountains of remote northern Idaho at age 17, having survived, and surmounted, her survivalist parents’ minimalist idea of homeschooling.

Students at Ath event

The new season at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum opens Sept. 16 with a powerhouse week that features a best-selling memoirist, a psychiatrist researching brain stimulation, a public health leader, and a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. A week, in other words, that exemplifies the Ath’s commitment to enhancing CMC’s liberal arts education by bringing wide-ranging ideas and viewpoints to campus.

2019 Athenaeum Fellows

Transformative. Challenging. An embodiment of the CMC spirit.

This year’s Woolley Fellows—Laleh Ahmad ’20, Sabrina Hartono ’21, and Sophia Krivatsy ’20—are grateful for how the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum has shaped their growth and education at CMC. No longer just visitors, the trio will serve as student faces for the Ath by introducing speakers, initiating head-table discussions, and facilitating the Q&A period during the 2019-20 academic year.

Richard “Skip” Wiltshire-Gordon

Upstairs at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, in a converted office with black soundproofing material cascading down the walls and a hunk of electronics on a table, Nandeeni Patel ’21 and Zach Wong ’19, quickly review their notes. All set.

Today’s guest, Benn Steil, senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council of Foreign Relations, arrives. It’s 4:28 p.m. The trio exchanges handshakes and hellos before they settle at the round table and adjust their mics. How’s the sound? Good.

And they’re live.

Wendy Sherman

Ambassador Wendy Sherman has been in some tough rooms before.

As lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal during the Obama administration, Sherman helped forge diplomatic relations with one of the United States’ most formidable adversaries for the first time since the late ’70s. Under President Bill Clinton, Sherman also had a front row seat to tense Israel-Palestine and North Korea negotiations. Often, she’s been the only woman at the table.

George Will

Two days after the elections, George Will could have spent an hour talking about the midterms and President Donald Trump.

Instead, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist explained that everything you need to know about American political philosophy is an argument between two former Presidents and Princeton alumni (also Will’s alma mater), James Madison and Woodrow Wilson.

Will called Madison’s belief in the doctrine of natural rights the basis of our Constitution. Human nature is fixed, so government should inherently be limited, he said.

Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky, the 13th Dean of Berkeley Law and a First Amendment scholar, spoke at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Oct. 8. He has been named the most influential person in legal education in the United States by National Jurist Magazine and is the author of more than 10 books including The Case Against the Supreme Court and Free Speech on Campus.