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Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, photo by Robin Holland
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August 7, 2009

Bill Moyers speaks with Lawrence-Lightfoot, one of America's leading educators and author of THE THIRD CHAPTER: PASSION, RISK, AND ADVENTURE IN THE 25 YEARS AFTER 50. Lawrence-Lightfoot envisions a much needed cultural shift in our attitudes toward youth and age — a need based on simple demographics. People are living longer and remaining engaged and vital — about 76 million Americans are now in what Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot has dubbed "the third chapter" of life.

"All of us at this point, to some degree, are on a search for meaningfulness, for purposefulness. And we want to find what this next 25 years, this penultimate chapter of our life, is going to be about. And we're ready for something new. For a new experience. For a new adventure. And I think all of us, to some degree, experience some burnout. Burnout is not about working too hard. Or working too diligently or being over committed. Burnout is about boredom. And so, I think in some ways this is about sort of moving beyond the boredom to compose, to invent and reinvent the path that we're on.

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot - A WORLD OF IDEAS (1988)
Bill Moyers first talked with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot for the series WORLD OF IDEAS in 1988. That conversation centered around philosophies of education: "Schooling is what happens inside the walls of a school; some of it is educational. Education happens everywhere, and it happens the moment a child is born, and some people say before, until a person dies." Their conversation also told the story of Lawrence-Lightfoot's mother, the child psychiatrist Dr. Margaret Lawrence, a pioneer who trained at the then all-white and largely male Columbia Psychoanalytic Clinic related by Lawrence-Lightfoot in the book BALM IN GILEAD. Watch Video

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is a sociologist who examines the culture of schools, the patterns and structures of classroom life, socialization within families and communities, and the relationships between culture and learning styles. She has pioneered portraiture, an approach to social science methodology that bridges the realms of aesthetics and empiricism. Lawrence-Lightfoot has written a number of books, including I'VE KNOWN RIVERS, which explores the development of creativity and wisdom using the lens of "human archaeology," THE ART AND SCIENCE OF PORTRAITURE and THE ESSENTIAL CONVERSATION: WHAT PARENTS AND TEACHERS CAN LEARN FROM EACH OTHER. In 1984, Lawrence-Lightfoot was awarded the prestigious MacArthur prize fellowship, and in 1993, she was awarded Harvard's George Ledlie prize for research that makes the "most valuable contribution to science" and "the benefit of mankind."

In March 1998, she was the recipient of the Emily Hargroves Fisher endowed chair at Harvard University, which, upon her retirement, will become the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot endowed chair, making her the first African-American woman in Harvard's history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor. She also has an endowed professorship named in her honor at Swarthmore College. She enjoys long-distance swimming, tennis, dance, the theater and symphony, playing the piano, and traveling abroad.

Published August 7, 2009

Guest photos by Robin Holland,

Related Media:
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Maxine Hong Kingston
Bill Moyers sits down with Chinese-American author Maxine Hong Kingston to discuss poetry, war and the transformative power of stories. (May 25, 2007)

Photo by Robin HollandMartin E. Marty
Bill Moyers talks with historian Martin E. Marty about his recent book, THE MYSTERY OF THE CHILD. (August 17, 2007)

References and Reading:
"Later Life Lessons," an interview with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, THE BOSTON GLOBE, January 5, 2009.

"Essential Schools," remarks by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Coalition for Essential Schools, Fall 2001.

"STORYTELLING WITH: Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot; The Black Bourgeoisie: A 90's View," Karen DeWitt, THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 31, 1994

Also This Week:
Bill Moyers speaks with one of America's leading educators and author of THE THIRD CHAPTER: PASSION RISK AND ADVENTURE IN THE 25 YEARS AFTER 50.

>From the Moyers Digital Archive: Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot interviewed in 1988

Photographic Artist Chris Jordan turns the statistics of consumerism into palpable images in his new photo series.

>Jordan discusses his photo series on Hurricane Katrina

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