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Updated: Apr 14

"In a democracy... people have to talk." In his two day seminar, titled American Democracy Today and the Future, Dr. Bill Cook reminded us of this charge made by the french nobleman and political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville back in the 1800s. This timeless notion is precisely what fueled our drive to deliver a 2021 season - to see that the show went on, despite the world's chaos. Gatherings of minds matter, perhaps now more than ever, and history continues to illustrate that such conversations start a ripple.

Culture is our way of understanding who we are. Culture answers the question, "HOW DO WE LIVE HERE?"

Embracing technology and sampling a brand new location at The Ben Hotel in West Palm Beach, we began our season by joining together, in the company of a dynamic panel of renowned political journalists, on the eve of one of our nation's most significant elections. That launching point led us into the timely exploration of what diplomatic relations might look like between the United States and the Middle East under the new (incoming) administration. As we welcomed the start of 2021, The Institute went on to tackle topics such as international spying, smart eating, de Tocqueville, memoir, time and the future of digital currency in the fine art markets. We partnered with our friends the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation to present the ecologist and author and "one of the most important voices for nature of our time" Carl Safina as he reminded us of the profound depth of beauty of the living world, and cautioned us of its current state of peril.


Author Susan Cheever opened her March presentation, which focused on "genius clusters", by praising the magic of "incidental conversations" and the resilience they offered to her personally throughout this most uncertain of times. "To me, one of the things I've learned in this past year is the importance of community, the importance of our friends, and especially the magic of conversation." We could not agree more, and this "magic" is the pillar on which the Coudert Institute continues to rest. On behalf of The Institute and its Board of Directors, we are beyond grateful to Susan and to all of our presenters, many of whom who traveled here to Palm Beach in order to share their wisdom and power our season forward:


MARGARET CARLSON, ELEANOR CLIFT, STEVE CLEMONS, ALVIN FELZENBERG, KIRSTEN FONTENROSE, KEITH MELTON, CHEF ALLEN CAMPBELL, MYLES LUDWIG, CARL SAFINA, DR. BILL COOK, ERIC WIND, MICHAEL GREENBERG, SUSAN CHEEVER Whether in person (at a social distance), or remotely via technology, to each of you who joined us in our mission to soldier on and continue to converse civilly on subjects at the forefront... THANK YOU! Thank you for your unwavering support and for your patience as we navigated new frontiers in technology. Most importantly, thank you for sharing your curiosity and your open mind(s) in our shared promise of perhaps seeing things in some new ways, despite the tumult that was 2020 - 2021. As always, we welcome your feedback and your input as we begin to build our programming for next year. We invite you to revisit the rich conversations and experiences of our 2021 season throughout the summer by visiting our video archives HERE.


We look forward to welcoming EVERYONE back in our 2022 season, and to reintroducing our world class musical programming outdoors in the beautiful garden. Stay safe, and see you next season!











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The Concord writers wrote some of the most famous and influential books of the 19th century.

Louisa May Alcott is beloved for her novel Little Women. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote many notable books such as the Scarlet Letter and the House of Seven Gables. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s most recognized works are his volumes of poetry titled Essays, First and Second Series, as well as his poem the Concord Hymn which famously coined the phrase “the shot heard round the world”. And, Henry David Thoreau is most extolled for his book Walden in which he went to the woods "in order to live more deliberatley".


Much like another celebrated literary group, the London Bloomsbury Group, the Concord writers had a shared set of values, morals, beliefs and a common appreciation for art and literature. They were abolitionists, transcendentalists, nature lovers as well as writers and poets. In her upcoming Coudert Institute presentation, The Concord Writers, author Susan Cheever will explore the nature of this genius cluster amongst which creativity was so well transmitted. In doing so, she'll share her beloved book American Bloomsbury, unpack the merits of creative connection, and compare contagion to its modern day applications.

Susan Cheever is an acclaimed, best-selling author whose sixteen published books and dozens of essays have built on the brilliant legacy of her father, the novelist and short story writer John Cheever whose stories will be the subject of her upcoming book When All the Men Wore Hats. She has published five memoirs, three additional biographies including the best-selling American Bloomsbury: Louisa  May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel HawthorneandHenry David Thoreau, their lives, their loves, their work, and My Name is Bill, Bill Wilson--His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous, and five novels.  Her book about American history as seen through the lens of alcoholism Drinking in America. Our Secret History was published in 2015 and longlisted for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for nonfiction. Her biography of the poet E.E. Cummings was published in February of 2014. Her biography of Louisa May Alcott was published in November 2010. She has written for many magazines and newspapers including The New Yorker, The New York Times and Newsday where she contributed to winning a 1997 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. She has also taught at Yale, Sarah Lawrence, Brown University, the New School and Bennington.  Her other awards include a National Book Critic Circle nomination, the Associated Press award for investigative reporting, the Boston Globe's Winship Medal, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She's on the board of the Yaddo Corporation and the Author's Guild Council. We are beyond delighted to welcome her here to Palm Beach this season What are the blessings of community? Join us at 11:30, on Thursday, March 18, for lunch and discussion at The Sailfish Club as the Coudert Institute probes this timely inquiry. Purchase tickets HERE.

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Alexis de Tocqueville, a 25-year-old French nobleman who journeyed to the United States in 1831, wanted to observe firsthand the successful political experiment that was evolving here and take his findings home to France, which was itself trying to shape its own young democracy. de Tocqueville's unique observations resulted in the two volumes of Democracy in America. Published in two parts, one in 1835 and the second in 1840, it reveals, in its 700 pages, insights about democracy and the American character that have led both liberals and conservatives to claim Tocqueville as their own.

The Coudert Institute is delighted to welcome Dr. William R. Cook to our 2021 Season as he presents a two day workshop, de Tocqueville and American Democracy... Today and the Future. "We have lots of things to talk about on February 17 and 18 at the Coudert Institute," says Professor Cook. Registration is now open, and tickets may be purchased HERE. We are grateful for his sharing of the following content:


Alex de Tocquevile's Democracy in America has been called the best book ever written about democracy and the best book ever written about America. It is a formidable book, almost 700 pages long, written after Tocqueville's journey to America in 1831. Republicans and Democrats praise this book. Clinton and Gingrich agreed about the greatness of Democracy in America. What better time to read and discuss this book than in 2021, for we can all agree that our democracy has been challenged by both natural and human-made phenomena.


Tocqueville gets to the heart of democracy in his phrase "equality of conditions." He examines strengths and weaknesses. He explains how democracy is not simply a form of government but rather a way of living. He believed that what he called "habits of the heart" are ultimately more important than the Constitution to the success of democracy. He believed that democracy could not be successful without a strong civil society and a vigorous free press. He did not fear that democracy could lead to totalitarian government but that it could move toward a sort of "tyranny light."




Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses in ancient and medieval history, the Renaissance and Reformation periods, and the Bible and Christian thought. Since 1983 Professor Cook has directed 11 Seminars for School Teachers for the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of St. Francis of Assisi and Francis of Assisi: The Way of Poverty and Humility.

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