Others and my ideas on this unique place. What is it? Do we need it? Why is it relevant?
Website: „Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities.“
Tom Becker, President of the Chautauqua Institution: “Welcome to another perfect day in Chautauqua!”
Erik Larson, author of „Dead Wake – The last crossing of the Lusitania“: “It’s wonderful to be standing here in front of such a huge and smart crowd.”
Tom Toles, cartoonist: “Everyone is so happy to be here. The only question is – where am I?”
Here are some attempts to find an answer to this question:
My hostdad: “Do you know the Trueman Show or Pleasant Ville? Sometimes Chautauqua reminds me of that.”
Beau Willimons, producer of „House of Cards“: “And then we woke up in this utopian paradise.” – and he doesn’t exaggerate.
Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns”: “Thank you for inviting me to this glorious and magical place.”- and she is not ironic.
A place where the question “Who hasn’t heard Eine kleine Nachtmusik?” is only answered by laughter. Where are the people who haven’t?
A place where people who made it talk to other people who made it. They are talking about diversity, equality, gender, race and empowering minorities. The audience applauds, cheers, agrees. But: where are the minorities, where is the diversity in the audience? It is easy to forget that what the lecturers say are more than strong and intense words. For many, they are the ugly reality of everyday life.
No one should be ashamed for where they come from, their education or wealth. But it is easy to just accept these things, take them for granted while sitting in a beautiful and perfectly round bubble.
It is perfectly fine to work hard all year to be able to enjoy a utopian Chautauqua summer. But don’t let that end when you leave. Take all the energy and inspiration this place gives you, bring it out of the bubble to share it and use it. Change something, whether it is small or big, but don’t get comfortable. Keep confronting yourself with everything that goes wrong and never forget that you could be the one who makes these things go right. Or help with that process. Or inspire others to do so. And you don’t even have to visit Chautauqua to do so.
Bis bald wieder auf deutsch, Franzi