Night of Ideas

Washington, D.C. - Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Wednesday, May 11 - 6:15pm-9pm

Where Are We Going?

Washington, DC

Washington, DC


This program is part of the European Week organized by the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.

Washington, DC, April 11, 2022 – Villa Albertine and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library are proud to present the 2022 Night of Ideas, an annual nocturnal marathon of philosophical debates, performances, readings, and more, coordinated worldwide by the Institut français.

Democracies around the world have been facing multiple challenges in the last two decades and instances of backsliding and drifting towards authoritarianism are numerous. Populism, the return of war on the European continent, rising inequalities and the imperative to address the issue of climate change represent a series of stress tests on democratic institutions whose models of governance and representation are more and more directly contested. The Covid pandemic was both a revelator and an additional challenge to political systems which are clearly in need of rebuilding and reinventing themselves. The Night of Ideas Washington symposium aims at addressing the concepts, formats and actors of that “Rebuilding Together” effort, this in a comparative perspective and on multiple scales of government.

Introductory Remarks

Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director of the DC Public Library

Kimberly A. Bassett, Secretary of the District of Columbia

Philippe Etienne, Ambassador of France to the United States

Panel # 1: How Democracies Can Come Out Stronger From the Challenges They Are Facing?

With Caroline Fredrickson, Professor at Georgetown Law and a Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Sophia Rosenfeld, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

In our first panel, “How democracies can come out stronger from the current challenges they are facing”, Caroline Fredrickson and Sophia Rosenfeld will explore the many ways in which, in their recent history, France and the United States have reinvented their institutions and overcome challenges to liberal democracy. If the past is prologue, what do those transformative refounding tell us about the present, on the role of political parties, of participatory democracy, of community activism, and constitutionalism. 

Panel #2: Our Global Institutions, Our Democratic Selves: Who Governs?

With Rama Yade, Former French Minister, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and Senior Fellow for the Europe Center, Stavros Lambrinidis, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States, and Stuart Holliday, CEO of Meridian International Center.

In “Our Global Institutions, Our Democratic Selves: Who Governs?”, our second panel, Stavros Lambridinis, Stuart Holliday and Rama Yade will discuss the role of international organizations in the rebuilding of democratic institutions confronted to the rise of multiple forms of nationalism but also to a discredited model of globalization exclusively destined to promote free trade. Can organizations whose mission statements were crafted in the wake of World War II or at the apex of the Cold War inform and provide a frame for the crises of the Twenty-First Century? In 2022, how does one articulate a need for more direct citizen engagement and global governance?

Panel # 3: Common Goods: the Three Pillars of Revitalization

With Gaël Giraud, Economist, Research Professor at Georgetown University, founding director of the Georgetown Environmental Justice Program, and Amanda Frost, Ann Loeb Bronfman Distinguished Professor of Law and Government at American University. 

and Laurent Dubois, Director for Academic Affairs of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia.

The law, norms, and citizen (re)appropriation of democratic processes are the grammar of the rebuilding of our liberal models and institutions. In our final panel, “Common Goods: the Three Pillars of Revitalization”, Laurent Dubois, Amanda Frost and Gaël Giraud will offer insights into a new grammar of democracy by exploring the themes of human rights, immigration and justice, but also of environmental rights and citizen empowerment. Democracy is indeed our most valuable common good and yet we struggle on a daily basis to avoid the fracturing of our bodies politic. Should the rule of law be our only guide?

The three panels will be moderated by Laurent Dubois, Director for Academic Affairs of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia.

Presented by: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and Villa Albertine.

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