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DU to Host 3rd Annual Denver Democracy Summit

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Emma Atkinson

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The University of Denver is a private university dedicated to the public good. That dedication is showcased in DU’s commitment to fostering civil discourse centered around the state of democracy in the United States and across the world.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the University’s Denver Democracy Summit series, which brings together top international thought leaders for discussions about democratic backsliding, misinformation, polarization, and technology and democracy, amid other topics.

“The Denver Democracy Summit grew out of our growing alarm about the state of democracy around the world and in this country,” says Fritz Mayer, dean of the Korbel School of International Studies. “It’s a desire to help our students and the broader public not only understand what is happening, but to think about ways to strengthen democracy,”

The third annual summit will be held Oct. 25 and 26 on the DU campus with the option to stream the events worldwide. This will be the first year that the events will be held in person rather than fully online.

The theme of this year’s Denver Democracy Summit is “Democracy Renewed and Reimagined.” The distinguishing feature of the event, Mayer says, is the expanded focus on the future of democracy; discussions will center not only on the current global state of democracy, but also include predictions for the future and provide forward-thinking critiques and conversations.

“What we see in the United States is not unlike what we see in many places around the world,” Mayer says. “There are common threats to democracy: disinformation, extreme polarization, identity politics. And we see the rise of typically right-wing, authoritarian movements in many places in the world. So, it's helpful to see that the U.S. is not completely unique in this regard, in terms of the challenges we face.”

Becca Montgomery, the director of Democracy and Civil Discourse Initiatives for the Douglas and Mary Scrivner Institute of Public Policy through the Korbel School, says the Denver Democracy Summit will be an eye-opening event for the students and members of the public who choose to attend.

I think this is a really unique event because it conveys world-leading scholarship in a clear and understandable way,” she says. “It's bridging the gap between the scholarship that's going on about democracy around the world and the informed public that wants to know more and is hungry for more.”

The event is packed with speakers who are some of the top thought leaders in the U.S. when it comes to the state of democracy, including keynote speaker Jamelle Bouie, a renowned New York Times columnist. Bouie will speak at the Summit’s kickoff event on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.

“As we were thinking about who we should have as a keynote, he rose to the top, in our thinking, as someone who has a critical take on the state of American democracy, and someone that I think our audience would like to hear from,” Mayer says.

Ukrainian ambassador Oksana Markarova will join U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) for a conversation about the war in Ukraine, the role of the United States, and what the conflict could mean for democracy around the world.

Other speakers include Naheed Farid, an Afghanistan Parliamentarian in exile and chairperson of the House Standing Committee for Women Affairs; Seema Shah, head of International IDEA's Democracy Assessment; Swati Srivastava, a visiting scholar from the Harvard Institute for Rebuilding Social Media; and many more.

Students will also be able to participate in several additional events happening alongside the Denver Democracy Summit, including a masterclass held by Bouie in partnership with DU’s Center on American Politics and the Estlow Center for Journalism and New Media. The Center for Immigration Policy and Research and the Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies will partner to host an additional masterclass with political commentator Santiago Mayer. Mayer founded Voters of Tomorrow, an advocacy and activism organization for young people in politics and government.

Those interested in attending the Denver Democracy Summit—either online or in person—can register here.