2016 officially was named The Worst Year Ever. Then came 2017. And 2018 and, finally, last year. That was the worst. Or so we thought until this year.
It’s become more than a meme that the world is getting worse, going to hell in a handbasket. And yet, year by year statistics show life is improving for most people around the world.
More of us live better than ever before – even if few of us believe the good news. The disconnect between the spreading sunlight of progress and most people’s growing gloom is creating a toxic political environment and undermines democratic norms, paving the way for autocracy and plutocracy. In its first program of the year, Common Ground will explore the schism between the way we are and how we think of the world.
Danielle Allen is a political theorist at Harvard University, where she serves as a professor and the Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics. She has published numerous books on justice and writes about civics as a contributing columnist to The Washington Post. She formerly served as chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, and in 2021 she became the first Black woman to run for Governor of Massachusetts.
sister simone campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a Roman Catholic anti-poverty activist, attorney, author, and recipient of the 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was the executive director of the progressive Catholic activism group NETWORK for 17 years and formerly led the “Nuns on a Bus” tours promoting awareness of social issues. Her organizing in support of the Affordable Care Act was so instrumental to its passing that she was a guest of honor at its signing and received a hug of thanks from President Barack Obama.
Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist and New Yorker staff writer, is a leading voice on totalitarianism, LGBTQ rights, Russia, and Vladimir Putin. The author of 11 books, Gessen won the National Book Award in 2017 for the Future is History, a breakdown of how Russia regressed from the cusp of democracy to its familiar authoritarianism.
Steven Pinker is an experimental cognitive psychologist at Harvard University. His writings on language development and cognition are popular among academic and mainstream readers for their groundbreaking discoveries and compelling, accessible writing style. Pinker is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, was on Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list in 2004, and was one of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2005, 2008, and 2010.