2012-2013 Schedule

2012-13 E.N. Thompson Forum

This season will examine the connection between religious faith, politics and human rights globally, particularly as they are manifested in various kinds of conflict. A variety of distinguished speakers will offer Nebraskans new perspectives and an appreciation for religion’s central role in both conflict and resolution. Forum speakers will address religion’s ability to unite and divide, international religious freedom, the death penalty debate, human rights concerns, and the role of women in religion, among other issues.

All lectures are free and open to the public.

Pre-talk is delievered by an expert on the topic in the Steinhart Room 30 minutes before each Forum. 

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Lied Center for Performing Arts,
301 N. 12th Street, Lincoln, NE

“True Islam: Human Rights, Faith, and Women"

Shirin Ebadi
Shirin Ebadi
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Laureate
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 7:00 p.m.

Lewis E. Harris Lecture on Public Policy

Watch a video of this lecture

In her presentation, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi will tie the efforts she’s made on behalf of women and religious minorities to the world of religious freedom, all while focusing on the importance of human rights throughout. This unique program will help the audience understand the importance of tolerance, perseverance, and belief in human rights for all; and most importantly share easy tools anyone can use to make a difference.

Human right activist Dr. Shirin Ebadi is the first Iranian and Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The 2003 accolade recognized her significant and pioneering efforts in democracy and human rights, especially for the rights of women, children and refugees.

Ebadi argues for an interpretation of Islamic law which is in harmony with vital human rights such as democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech.

As a lawyer, Ebadi has been involved in many controversial political cases and as a result, has been imprisoned on several occasions.

Ebadi earned a law degree from the University of Tehran. From 1975-79 she served as president of the city court of Tehran. After the revolution in 1979 she was forced to resign. Previously a professor at the University of Tehran, she now works as a lawyer.


Previous speakers in this series

“American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us"

Robert Putnam
Robert Putnam
Robert Putnam, Harvard Professor
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 7:30 p.m.

Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities, Nebraska Humanities Council
This lecture only will be broadcast live.  Contract limitations do not allow recording or rebroadcast of Robert Putnam’s lecture. 

Unique among nations, America is deeply religious, religiously diverse and remarkably tolerant. But in recent decades, the nation’s religious landscape has been reshaped. In his lecture, Putnam will explore his recent book, “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.”  Co-authored with David Campbell of the University of Notre Dame, the book focuses on the role of religion in American public life. Based on data from two of the most comprehensive national surveys on religion and civic engagement ever conducted, the book won the American Political Science Association’s 2011 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs.

Acclaimed author and political scientist Robert D. Putnam has helped influence the way people think about the fabric of American society. Putnam, who is Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, has written more than a dozen books, including “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” and “Making Democracy Work.” Both are among the most cited publications in the social sciences in the last half century. Putnam is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Academy, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a past president of the American Political Science Association. He has served as an adviser to presidents and national leaders around the world.

Violence, Religion, Financial Muscle and Liberation: Can Africa Heal Itself?"

Charles Villa-Vicencio
Charles Villa-Vicencio
Charles Villa-Vicencio, South African Theologian
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 7:00 p.m.
Watch a video of this lecture

Pauley Symposium, History Department

Contemporary Africa is a victim of colonial and neo-colonial violence. Africa is also its own worst enemy, with several intrinsically viable states engulfed in a destructive synthesis of military aggression, economic chaos, cultural animosity and religious warfare. This lecture will address the encounter between positive and negative forces and ideologies in African states. It will include consideration of ‘lessons to be learned’ from the South African transition for other situations of conflict in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

Regarded as a global authority in the area of transitional justice, distinguished theologian, and political scientist Charles Villa-Vicencio has used his expertise to advise several countries dealing with the challenges of rebuilding their societies after periods of internal strife, including Peru and various African nations.

He divides his time between Washington, D.C., where he is a visiting conflict resolution professor and research fellow at Georgetown University — and Africa, including in his native South Africa.

Villa-Vicencio is also a senior research fellow in the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation based in Cape Town, having founded the Institute in 2000 and served as its executive director for eight years. The institute encourages cooperation between groups in South Africa and beyond that have been divided by social conflicts.

He is the author or editor of 18 books, including his most recent, “Walk with Us and Listen: Political Reconciliation in Africa.”

“The Death Penalty: Justice, Retribution and Dollars"

(l-r) J. Kirk Brown, Michael L. Radelet
(l-r) J. Kirk Brown, Michael L. Radelet
J. Kirk Brown, Nebraska Solicitor General &
Michael Radelet, University of Colorado Boulder Professor
Moderated by Susan Poser, Dean of UNL College of Law
Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 7:00 p.m.
Watch a video of this dialogue

The Chuck and Linda Wilson Dialogue on Domestic Issues

The death penalty continues to generate intense debate, including in Nebraska — one of 33 states that authorize capital punishment. In this debate, Nebraska Solicitor General J. Kirk Brown and University of Colorado Boulder professor Michael Radelet will explore such questions as whether the death penalty is humane, fairly applied, reduces violent crime, or is cost effective. They’ll also examine impacts on the condemned person, the legal and judicial systems, victims’ loved ones, and the taxpaying society at large.

J. Kirk Brown has served as Nebraska’s Solicitor General since 2003. He previously served as the Nebraska Department of Justice’s Chief of the Criminal Bureau, Chief of the Criminal Appellate Section, and Chief of the Civil Litigation Section. For more than 28 years, Brown has been Nebraska’s primary counsel in capital cases and was counsel of record in Nebraska’s three, most recent executions: State v. Otey (1994); State v. Joubert (1996); and State v. Williams (1997).

Brown also spent six years as the general counsel to the Texas Department of Corrections. There he witnessed more than 20 executions. While in Texas, he also was seated as a juror in a capital murder trial, State of Texas v. Jesse Dewayne Jacobs.

A graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Law (1973), Brown has lectured nationally on the death penalty, appellate practice, federal habeas corpus, and corrections law.

As professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, Michael L. Radelet has focused his research on capital punishment, problems of erroneous convictions, racial bias, and ethical issues faced by health care personnel involved in capital cases and executions. His work on erroneous convictions (with Hugo Adam Bedau, emeritus professor of philosophy at Tufts University) is widely credited with introducing the “innocence argument” into contemporary death penalty debates.

Radelet has testified in dozens of death penalty cases, before congressional committees, and in legislatures in seven states. He has worked with scores of death row inmates and gone through “last visits” with 50. He also works closely with families of homicide victims in Colorado. At the request of then-Illinois Governor George Ryan, he completed a study of racial biases in the death penalty in Illinois that Governor Ryan used in his 2003 decision to commute 167 death sentences.


“Protecting the Human Rights of Religious Minorities Worldwide:  International Religious Freedom in U.S. Policy"

Felice Gaer
Felice Gaer
Felice Gaer, American Jewish Committee
Monday, February 4, 2013 - 7:00 p.m.
Watch a video of this lecture

Harris Center for Judaic Studies

Since the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 was adopted, the U.S. government has paid more attention to human rights violations committed against members of religious minorities in hot spots throughout the world. Implementing this policy has encountered both resistance and assistance from traditional diplomats, foreign governments, and NGO representatives. In this lecture, Felice Gaer, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, will discuss what has been accomplished and what is needed to bolster this vital human rights concern.

Felice Gaer is the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. For more than 40 years, the institute has worked to advance human rights worldwide.

She is currently the chair of the Leo Nevas Task Force on Human Rights of the United Nations Association of the USA; vice chair of the U.N. Committee against Torture (the first American to serve as an independent expert on that treaty monitoring body); and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

She has served more than a decade on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, including three terms as chair.

Gaer is the author of more than 40 articles on international human rights. She has been active in ensuring that women’s rights are addressed as human rights, and that violence against women, including rape, has been addressed effectively by UN human rights bodies.




Lied Center for Performing Arts, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Cooper Foundation

Lectures are available live on the UNL web site, Lincoln cable channel 21 or 5, UNL campus channel 8, and UNL KRNU radio 90.3 FM. All lectures are interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing.

A cooperative project of the Cooper Foundation, The Lied Center for Performing Arts and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln