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Morning & Afternoon Lecture Series

Amphitheatre A full 10:45 lecture at the Amphitheater
Eileen Elibol / WNED
One of the core elements of the Chautauqua program is the 10:45 a.m. lecture series. The lecture series is Chautauqua's signature platform for distinguished scientists, authors, educators, and experts in many fields. The 10:45 lecture series is one of Chautauqua's best-known features and is central to life on the grounds. Every weekday during the season, the 5,000-seat Amphitheater plays host to a different speaker.

Each of the nine weeks during the Chautauqua season is devoted to a different subject. These subjects can be as broad as 'Imagine' or as specific as 'The Supreme Court.' Each week features an ongoing discussion of the topic at hand and the 10:45 speakers are carefully selected to contribute to the discussion.

Lecture A full 2:00 lecture at the Hall of Philosophy
Eileen Elibol / WNED
In keeping with Chautauqua's commitment to active engagement, the 10:45 lectures are not merely passive speeches. Each speaker is allowed roughly 45 minutes for his or her presentation with the last 15 minutes or so reserved for questions from the audience. It is this feature that many speakers point to as one of Chautauqua's most unique and powerful aspects. After each speaker is finished, audience members write down their questions and a number are selected by the moderator for the speaker to answer. Chautauqua is known for its engaged and attentive audiences and the types of questions asked are typically specific and designed to continue the discussion begun by the speaker.

The lecture series is notable not only for the respect the audience has for the speaker, but for the mutual respect the speakers have for the audience. Author Daniel Pink has been on the 10:45 lecture platform twice, and has said about the series, "You have to have something to say, in the same way that someone in 1880 had to have something to say." Former 10:45 guest lecturer David McCullough said of the audience, "The audience makes what happens here. That's what makes Chautauqua, it’s that audience."

Gordon Wood A speaker at the Amphitheater
Eileen Elibol / WNED
Chautauqua has long been a platform for eminent speakers of the day. In 1936 President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his 'I Hate War' speech in the Amphitheater. Other famous speakers include George Gershwin and Susan B. Anthony. Recent speakers include David McCullough, Jim Lehrer, Roger Rosenblatt, E.J. Dionne, Ken Burns, and many others.

In addition to the main 10:45 a.m. lecture in the Amphitheater every weekday; there is also a 2:00 p.m. lecture in the Hall of Philosophy. This lecture series is hosted by the Department of Religion and designed to reflect the lived religion and interfaith commitment of the Chautauqua Institution.

The goal of the 2:00 lecture series is to focus on issues of faith, theology, ethics, philosophy, and religion that impact everyday life. The topics and speakers represent a diversity of faiths and viewpoints. The platform regularly features Jewish, Christian, and Muslim speakers, as well as occasional voices from Eastern religions.

Similar to the 10:45 lecture, the 2:00 lecture also embraces the idea of engagement. After speakers have completed their talk they are greeted with questions directly from the audience. Microphones are stationed throughout the Hall of Philosophy and audience members are encouraged to take their turn and query the speakers. Possibly even more than the 10:45 lecture, this format allows for meaningful interaction between the audience and the speaker.

Hall of Philosophy A view of the Hall of Philosophy
Chautauqua: An American Narrative
Due in part to the layout of the Hall of Philosophy, the 2:00 lecture series often has a much more casual feel than its morning counterpart. The hall itself holds about 700 people but the crowds often number closer to 1200. The audience spills into the surrounding lawns and parks on blankets and lawn chairs to hear the lecturers. Many people arrive an hour or more before the lecture begins to ensure a good seat.

While continuing to honor its Christian roots the 2:00 lecture series offers an example of what it means to live with religious pluralism.

Education and informed discussion are core ideas of the Chautauqua Institution and there is no better manifestation of those than the morning and afternoon lecture series. Together, these series offer visitors forums for hearing and interacting with some of the best speakers and thinkers of their time.
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