The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again
Date and Time:
Feb 10 2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Note: Event start time is Central Time (CT).


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Robert D. Putnam, Ph.D.

Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University

Shaylyn Romney Garrett

Writer and social entrepreneur

Spiro Bolos

Social studies teacher, New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL

The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again

Activism | American History | Character | Community | Culture | Education | Equity | Ethics | Family | History | Leadership | Public Policy | Sociology | Youth


In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert D. Putnam, Ph.D., with Shaylyn Romney Garrett, analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. He draws inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again is Prof. Putnam’s most ambitious work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.

Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.

But we’ve been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However, as the 20th century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.

Prof. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, having retired from active teaching in May 2018. Raised in a small town in Ohio, he was educated at Swarthmore, Oxford, and Yale. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006 Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world’s highest accolade for a political scientist, in 2013 President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities, for “deepening our understanding of community in America,” and in 2018 the International Political Science Association awarded him the Karl Deutsch Award for cross-disciplinary research. He has received sixteen honorary degrees from eight countries, including in 2018, the University of Oxford.

Prof. Putnam has written fifteen books, translated into twenty languages, including Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Italy and Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, both among the most cited (and bestselling) social science works in the last half century. His most recent bestseller, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, chronicled the growing class gap among American youth, and this book was the topic of Prof. Putnam’s 2016 FAN talk.

Ms. Romney Garrett is a writer and social entrepreneur who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of connection, community, and healing in an increasingly fragmented world.

In addition to her work with Prof. Putnam on The Upswing, she also co-authored with him the award-winning book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. She is a founding contributor to the Aspen Institute’s initiative, Weave: The Social Fabric Project, and writes about her personal journey back to community on her blog, Project Reconnect.

Prof. Putnam and Ms. Romney Garrett will be interviewed by Spiro Bolos, a 26-year veteran of the classroom who has taught a wide range of courses in the Social Studies at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL and at various other institutions in the past. He holds a Master’s Degree in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This event suitable for youth 12+.

BONUS AFTER-HOURS EVENT: Attendees who purchase a copy of The Upswing from FAN’s partner bookseller The Book Stall are invited to attend an AFTER-HOURS event hosted by Prof. Putnam, Ms. Romney Garrett, and Mr. Bolos that will start immediately after the webinar. Details on the webinar registration page.

REGISTRATION REQUIRED for all FAN events. This event will be recorded and available later on our website and YouTube channel.