Penn's 2012 Silfen Forum: Is America Broken? A Conversation on the 2012 Elections and Beyond
March 20, 2012
What happens when you put together an esteemed panel of political experts
— journalists, politicians, and political analysts — and ask, “Is America broken?”
You get this year’s David and Lyn Silfen University Forum
, a lively and illuminating exchange of ideas, insights, and opinions (along with good-humored jabs!) across political boundaries and experiences.
For the packed audience at Irvine Auditorium — which included David and Lyn Silfen, whose generosity has made these forums possible — the discussion was thoroughly engaging. Penn President Amy Gutmann, herself a political scientist and soon to publish her 16th book, The Spirit of Compromise
, moderated the panel and kept the pace moving. Beginning with the premise that “there’s nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America,” she challenged her guests to consider all that’s broken in America today — political polarization, high unemployment, the costs of war, unstable financial markets — and to get to the most important question as we head into the 2012 elections: what can we do about this? > watch video
| > view photos
Perhaps the best thing about the forum was that it brought Penn students into the process of debate and deliberation, face to face with today’s political thinkers and doers: Ed Rendell, C'66, HON'00 (Penn alum and former Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Governor), Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal columnist, best selling author, and frequent TV political commentator), Alan Simpson (co-chair of the Bowles-Simpson Commission), Charles Blow (award-winning New York Times op-ed columnist), and John Lapinski (Penn Associate Professor of Political Science and NBC news election analyst).
During the Q+A which followed, one student asked: “What can my generation do to secure our future?”
Gutmann’s response: “Go out and vote! Young people have to vote!” — a reminder of the conviction behind the words with which she began the forum: “Our democracy must be the engine of our own renewal.”
The Silfen University Forums have been made possible through the generosity of Penn Trustee David Silfen, C'66, and his wife, Lyn. The Silfens, who have endowed two PIK Professors (Jonathan Moreno and Sarah Tishkoff), the Silfen Student Study Center, a term professorship, and the David and Lyn Silfen Fund in the School of Arts and Sciences, have long been committed to undergraduate education and established the Silfen Forum to address issues of national and international importance.
“Lyn and I are proud to support these forums and help Penn continue taking education beyond the walls of the classroom,” says David Silfen. “These events showcase Penn at its absolute best, with students and faculty joining experts from around the world for enriching conversation on the most challenging questions confronting our society.”
Previous Silfen Forums include "After the Fall: A World Transformed?" (2009) and “The Polarized Polis: Public Debate in the United States” (2010).
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