Democracy Talks

Democracy Talks is a series of events designed to illuminate the democratic process and create space for conversation. Our expert speakers grapple with the thorniest issues of our time, providing much-needed context and suggesting paths to engagement. Have a suggestion for a speaker? Let us know!

Upcoming Events

Bil Lewis as President MadisonJames Madison and the Coming of Age of the U.S.

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 7:00 p.m. in the Watertown Savings Bank Room

During this President’s Day Week, President James Madison will speak firsthand about his experiences during the establishment of our country. He will make you think about how many of the issues being confronted then—how power is distributed in society, the role of money, the impact of slavery, and more—remain relevant today.

Bil Lewis (President Madison) is a Computer Scientist who has taught at Stanford and Tufts. He is also a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, a past District Governor for Toast Masters, a small businessman, and an Eagle Scout.


Andras RiedlmayerKilling Memory: The Destruction and Resurrection of Libraries and Cultural Heritage

Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 7:00 p.m. in the Watertown Savings Bank Room

This special One Book, One Watertown installment of Democracy Talks will be presented by Andras Riedlmayer, director of the Documentation Center for Islamic Architecture at Harvard's Fine Arts Library. Riedlmayer documented the destruction of cultural heritage in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s, and testified as an expert witness before the UN War Crimes Tribunal. 

Past Events

speaker Kerri GreenidgeThe African American Trail Project

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The African American Trail Project is an organizational network and community-based archive that maps African American and African-descended public history sites across greater Boston. Historian Kerri Greenidge introduced the project, which is housed at the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts. 


A Seat at the Table exhibit logo

A Seat at the Table

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Edward M. Kennedy Institute staff members Elaine Mondy, Amy Munslow, and Sarah Yezzi described the Institute's A Seat at the Table project, inspired by Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. After the presentation, Watertown Community Conversations led a facilitated conversation.


Inspeaker Sara Chagantiequality and Public Policy

Thursday, December 6, 2018 

Sara Chaganti discussed the role of public policy – both current and past – in driving inequality. Chaganti is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, a research institute housed at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. After the presentation, Watertown Community Conversations led a facilitated conversation.


Professor Candice Delmas

Civil and Uncivil Disobedience

Thursday, November 1, 2018  

Candice Delmas, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Northeastern University, discussed the standard template for civil disobedience, the demands and limits of civility, and the potential value of uncivil disobedience. Delmas's book, A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil, was published by Oxford University Press in September 2018.


Anne Benaquist, citizenship instructorWhat Does It Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 

Project Literacy citizenship instructor Anne Benaquist and a panel of new Americans explained the process of - and reasons behind - becoming a citizen of the U.S.


Portrait of Jennifer Van Campen, smiling with light eyes and blonde hair and a pink shirtDefining, Developing, and Legislating "Fair" Housing

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Jennifer Van Campen, Executive Director of Metro West Collaborative Development, used examples from our own local communities to illustrate historical and current practices that thwart fair housing. 


 Pouya AlimaghamDemocracy in Iran

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

In this special One Book, One Watertown edition of our ongoing series, MIT historian Pouya Alimagham provided an overview of democracy movements in modern Iran.


Rachael CobbThe Future of Voting Rights, 2018 and Beyond

Thursday, December 7, 2017

At this sixth event in our ongoing series, Professor Rachael Cobb provided an historical overview of voting rights and updated us on what’s at stake in 2018. 

Rachael Cobb, Associate Professor and Chair of the Government Department at Suffolk University, studies U.S. elections, election administration, electoral politics, civic engagement, and political participation. She established the University Pollworkers Project, a nonpartisan program designed to recruit college students to serve as poll workers in partnership with the City of Boston’s Election Department. Professor Cobb serves on the board of MassVOTE, iVote, and the Boston Election Advisory Committee, and she is a monthly contributor to the SCRUM on NPR’s Morning Edition on WGBH.


Nancy BrumbackHow to Talk So Your Legislators Will Listen

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Attendees learned the most effective ways to reach state legislators and make their voices heard in this non-partisan presentation by Nancy Brumback. At what point in the legislation process is communication from constituents most effective?  Why is it important to contact legislators when you know they agree with you?

Brumback is a director of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts and oversees the League’s work on state legislation.


sabrinehardalanHow Immigration Law Affects Us All

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What do recent changes to immigration law and policy mean for refugees, newcomers, longtime residents, and citizens? Sabrineh Ardalan, Assistant Director of the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School, gave an overview of the upheavals and their impact.


Keith BergmanWhat Does Climate Change Mean for Massachusetts?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What effects will climate change have on Massachusetts and on the northeastern states in general? What are the long-term effects of current and possible changes in legislation, government agencies, and funding? What can you can do to combat climate change and achieve sustainability? With Keith Bergman of The Climate Reality Project.


National Lawyer’s Guild LogoCivil Disobedience Workshop

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild discussed how to prepare for civil disobedience actions and their legal consequences. Training topics included:

  • pre-rally concerns
  • what happens when you are arrested
  • arraignments
  • deals and depositions
  • tips for legal observers

Photo of Erin O’Brien - woman with brown hair smilingDonald Trump and the Republic

Thursday, January 19, 2017

On the eve of the presidential inauguration, UMass Boston professor Erin O'Brien, Ph.D, applied the lens of political science to the transition in our executive branch. How might President-elect Trump's plans and promises conform to our nation's core principles? What should we watch for during the inauguration, and in the weeks and months to follow?