The Fragility and Strength of American Democracy

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This year's Democracy Project will consist of a series of lectures, discussions, and presentations on topics of Democracy in America available to the public by Zoom and public radio. 

Our theme for this year's Democracy Project is inspired by the inscription above the entrance to Churchill on the campus of SOU: 

"The Difficulties of Democracy are the opportunities of education."

The title for this year's Democracy Project will be discussed at the opening roundtable event, January 21st. Together we will consider this question: what is the nature of the fragility and strength of American democracy? 

The Democracy Project is dedicated to the study of democracies around the world. Please join us this year online and on Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) as we explore American Democracy from a variety of contemporary, historical, and philosophical perspectives. 

Check back for more information about upcoming events, how to register for access to the Zoom links, how to access these presentations via JPR. 

Upcoming Events

May 20: Domestic Challenges to Democracy

JPR 8:30 a.m.

Guest Speaker: Kevin Grisham

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Dr. Kevin Grisham is the Associate Director of the Center for Hate and Extremism and also the Chair and a professor of Geography at California State University, San Bernardino. Dr. Grisham has studied a variety of violent extremist groups from around the world and within the United States. His expertise is much sought after as we grapple with the reality of a growing number and a growing diversity of domestic extremist groups within the United States. Dr. Grisham will share some of his research and insights into the current state of extremism in the United States. 


Past recorded events 

 Jan 21: The Fragility and Strength of American Democracy

Panel recording available for online viewing - click on the title above.

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Panel discussion kicked off this year's Democracy Project. Panelists reflected on the state of our democracy, the lessons learned from the Democracy Project over the past six years, and a preview of topics that will make up the Democracy Project series. 

Guest panelists: 

Moderator: Cherstin M. Lyon, Director of Honors College, Professor of History, SOU

Prakash Chenjeri, Professor and Chair of Philosophy, SOU

Shawn Patterson, Assistant Professor of Political Science, SOU

Dustin Walcher, Professor and Chair of History and Political Science, SOU

Marvin Woodard, Equity Coordinator for Racial Justice, SOU

Warren Hedges, Instructor, Honors College, SOU


January 26: "The Democracy Project" - An Interview on JPR

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Dr. Prakash Chenjeri, Professor of Philosophy and Chair of Philosophy, and Dr. Cherstin Lyon, Professor of History and Director of the Honors College at SOU, will join Geoffrey Riley on JPR for a conversation about the Democracy Project. Dr. Chenjeri created the Democracy Project several years ago. It is now in its seventh year at SOU. Dr. Lyon joined the project as director of the Honors College last year. Together, they will discuss the Democracy Project, past, present, and future. 

To listen to this interview, visit JPR: "SOU Democracy Project Turns Inward"

February 4: Party Divisions, Public Opinion, and Public Discourse

Shawn Patterson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Political Science, SOU 

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Professor Patterson spoke about the roots of party divisions and its effects on public opinion and public discourse.

Shawn Patterson is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Southern Oregon University, teaching courses in American politics and research methods. His research focuses on political parties and the organized interests that they represent. His current project studies the role of organized interests in Congressional representation.

Visit JPR to listen to his interview:

To watch his Zoom presentation, use the following link and password. Passcode: $5T!zYv! 

February 18: Day of Remembrance - Japanese American Internment during World War II and Today

JPR - To Listen to the interview, please visit JPR online:

"Lason Indada Talks Internment for the Democracy Project" 

Guest Speaker: Lawson Inada

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Photo Credit: Lawson Inada, Heyday Books

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1941. This act initiated the process by which Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes along the West Coast and lower third of Arizona and were forced into detention centers euphemistically known more commonly as internment camps. This unconstitutional act was driven by fear, racism, and wartime hysteria. President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 apologizing for this error and creating the possibility for reparations. One part of reparations is remembering how even in a Democracy, the possibility is real that the rights of some might be trampled in times of fear and uncertainty. Lawson Inada, fifth poet laureate of the state of Oregon, Guggenheim Fellow for Creative Arts, and emeritus professor from Southern Oregon University will speak with JPR the morning before the offical Day of Remembrance as a part of the onging Democracy Project series. Lawson Inada is also a third generation Japanese American. As a child, he was forced with his parents and grandparents first to the Fresno County Fairgrounds Assembly Center; then to a camp in Jerome, Arkansas, in the Mississippi Delta; and, finally, to Amache Camp in the Colorado desert. Join us Thursday morning, February 18 and be a part of the conversation on JPR.

February 18: Special Feature - McGirt v. Oklahoma - Sovereign Immunity

Click here to watch the recording of this presentation.

Guest Speaker: Mary Kathryn Nagle 


Mary Kathryn Nagle is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She graduated summa cum laude from Tulane Law School and then clerked for the Honorable Laurie Smith Camp and the Honorable Joseph P. Bataillon, United States District Court, District of Nebraska. She also clerked for the Honorable Fortunato P. Benavides, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Following her clerkships, she spent five years working as a litigation associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart, & Sullivan, where she worked on residential mortgage backed securities litigation on behalf of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, as well as the Lehman Bankruptcy on behalf of the creditor’s committee. She also worked on several appellate matters in both the federal circuit courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

She left Quinn Emanuel in 2015 to become a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. She is actively engaged in the movement to end the crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), as well as the efforts to secure Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) re-authorization. She represents MMIWG families and has testified before Congress on the matter as recently as March 2019. She has authored numerous briefs in federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. She is a frequent speaker on topics related to violence against Native Women, VAWA, MMIWG, the Indian Child Welfare Act, tribal sovereignty, and federal Indian law.


March 4: Alexis de Tocqueville on American Democracy 

Listen to the conversation on JPR:

Prakash Chenjeri, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of Philosophy, SOU

Prakash Chenjeri Southern Oregon University Philosophy Faculty

Professor Prakash Chenjeri will present on the continued relevance of Alexis de Tocqueville's 19th Century observations of American Democracy. In what ways is America "exceptional"? What makes our Democracy unique in the world? How can a review of Alexis de Tocqueville's 19th Century observations help us make sense of our democracy today? 

Prakash Chenjeri is professor of philosophy. He teaches courses in the areas of political philosophy, history of philosophy, philosophy of science, seminars in science and democracy, science and religion. He is also an affiliated faculty in the university’s Honors College. He has a PhD from Bangalore University and his research interests include the role of scientific literacy in democracy, epistemological issues at the interface of science and religion, political philosophy, and the idea of public reason and democracy. When he is not in the classroom, Prakash is involved in various community activities, including running the Friends of Philosophy group, a monthly meeting primarily for the community, and serving on the Ethics Board at Ashland Community Hospital.

March 11: Special Feature - American Democracy in Native America and Tribal Democratic Institutions

JPR Interview - to listen, follow the link: 

JPR Interview Recording

Guest Speaker: Keith Richotte, Jr.

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Professor Keith Richotte, Jr. will speak on and take questions about the practice of American democracy in Native America and tribal democratic institutions as historically constituted, presently situated, and what the future may hold.  Keith Richotte is an Associate Justice of the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court of Appeals, the tribal nation of which he is a citizen.  He is also an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina.

Democracy in Italy

Melissa DiCorrado speaks with JPR about growing up in Italy, about Italian democracy, and the most recent SOU Democracy Project High School Symposium held with Crater High School. 

Listen on JPR Radio: A View from Another Democracy

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