Holy Cross Launches President’s ‘Defending Democracy’ Discussion Series

The American flag on the Holy Cross campus. Photo by Avanell Chang

Series to feature address by 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa

The College of the Holy Cross announced that the Office of the President, under the leadership of President Vincent D. Rougeau, will be sponsoring a series of conversations  in the coming weeks and months focusing on higher education's role in defending democracy.

The series will kick off this month with a visit from a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a fishbowl discussion about the conflict in Ukraine.

Comprised of curated and original content, events and dialogues, the "Defending Democracy" discussion series will reflect the College's ongoing commitment to inquiry, learning, compromise and debate, and the ways in which we are each participating in the democratic process as U.S. citizens or citizens of nations around the world.

"I strongly believe that our nation's colleges and universities are central to the furtherance of democracy," said Rougeau. "As a Jesuit, Catholic college, we also understand that freedom and equality are inseparable from a meaningful engagement with the common good.

"The 'Defending Democracy' series seeks to address the role that Holy Cross should play as we pursue a more just and equitable world, and meaningfully engage with those with whom we disagree."

On Monday, April 25, Holy Cross will host 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, in an event sponsored by the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture.

As an investigative journalist, Maria Ressa has distinguished herself as a fearless defender of freedom of expression and has exposed abuse of power, use of violence and increasing authoritarianism in the Philippines and around the world.

Ressa will give a keynote address at 4:30 p.m. in St. Joseph Chapel titled "What Are You Willing to Sacrifice for the Truth?" The Keynote will be followed by an open discussion with President Rougeau at 7:30 p.m. in Hogan Ballroom focusing on the biggest threats to democracy and what actions could safeguard it. The former event is open to Holy Cross students, faculty and staff; the latter is also open to the public.

Prior to this event, the series will kick off Thursday, April 21 from 4-5 p.m. with a virtual fishbowl discussion on "The Ukraine War and the Prospects for Democracy." The virtual session will be open to the Holy Cross community and posted on YouTube.

The "fish" – chosen for their distinct perspective or scholarship on the topic – will include Holy Cross student Viktor Lutsyshen '23, a native of Kherson, Ukraine; Nina Barzachka, assistant professor of political science at Holy Cross; Markian Dobczansky, an independent scholar of the history of Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Union and an associate of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard; and Roman Zaviyskyy, dean of philosophy and theology at Ukrainian Catholic University, who will be joining virtually from Lviv.