A Day of Genius with the Sacramento Bee

Saturday, November 07, 2020 9:30 am - 1:15 pm


9:30 am - 10:35 am
The Remarkable Genius of Benjamin Franklin

Caroline Winterer / Stanford University

Benjamin Franklin was a genius. He dabbled in many things, but also mastered them—philosophy, electricity, diplomacy—and shaped his world and ours. He coined electrical terms like "battery," "positive," "negative," "charge"—he wrote about demography, economics (Adam Smith was among his friends), made the post office operate efficiently (inventing an odometer to measure how far the mail wagon traveled), and he invented a musical instrument for which both Mozart and Beethoven composed. He built things—bifocal glasses, an arm extender to reach books on high shelves, an electrical apparatus to cook a turkey, swimming fins (he is in the Swimming Hall of Fame), more efficient street lights, and when his brother suffered from kidney stones, Franklin made him a catheter.

How was Franklin able to do so many things? He explained his method so that others could do the same. Franklin was that rare genius who wanted to share his accomplishments—he never patented any of his inventions, and welcomed challenges and improvements to them. He wanted others to be able not just to do what he did, but to improve on what he did. What drove him to invent and create was his boundless curiosity—wanting to know more about how the world worked and how better to live in it—and his great optimism, his faith that people cold make the world a better place.

Caroline Winterer / Stanford University

Caroline Winterer is William Robertson Coe Professor of History at Stanford University. Her latest book is, “American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason.” She is a recipient of an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution for mapping the social network of Benjamin Franklin, and is also a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

10:50 am - 11:55 am
The Visionary Genius of Frederick Douglass

Richard Bell / University of Maryland

Frederick Douglass, one of America’s most important historical figures, continues to inspire modern day human rights and civil rights activism. He was an educator, activist, abolitionist, and public speaker. Born into slavery in or around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland, his owner’s wife taught him the alphabet; he subsequently taught himself to read and write. While still enslaved, Douglass taught others how to read and write. Douglass escaped his enslavement and fled to New York and then Massachusetts, where he became involved in the abolitionist movement.

Douglass traveled the U.S. advocating for the abolishment of slavery, as well as the UK and Ireland, and forged relationships with others fighting for freedom and equality. He was an advocate for women’s rights, and specifically the right of women to vote. Douglass was even asked by Victoria Woodhull to serve as her Vice President in 1872. In this class, we will discuss Douglass’ life and work as an advocate for electoral participation, gender inclusion, and racial equity. We will discuss the historical implications of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the subsequent amendments to the Constitution expanding the civil rights and civil liberties in the U.S. In this current political moment, it is important to contextualize the efforts of Douglass to change hearts and minds towards the institution of slavery across the U.S. and abroad.

Richard Bell / University of Maryland

Richard Bell is a Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Historical Society, as an elected member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is also the author of the new book “Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home”.

12:10 pm - 1:15 pm
The Literary Genius of Shakespeare

Seth Lerer / University of California at San Diego

Shakespeare’s Genius

More than four centuries after his death, Shakespeare continues to allure, to challenge, and to teach. Each year, new books and new productions testify to the endurance of his plays and poetry. What makes William Shakespeare, in the words of his contemporary Ben Jonson, “not for an age, but for all time”? We will explore the range of Shakespeare’s work to see how he awes and teaches us today. This lecture focuses on three important questions, both for his time and ours: What is the place of art in the exercise of political rule? How do our families make and unmake us? Is there a character inside of us, or are we all performers on life’s stage? All of Shakespeare’s works address these questions in some way.

What Makes Shakespeare So Great

This lecture will focus on a couple of the great tragedies (Hamlet, King Lear), a great comedy (Midsummer Night’s Dream), and a range of Sonnets. It will explore the ways in which we may see his work newly on the stage, but also how we can read it privately – and how both media of acting and printing shaped his work from its very beginning.

Learn more about our history by checking out other great videos at OneDayU, including ‘What Happened To The News, ‘Music & Theater: Past, Present & Future& ‘Making Better Choices: The Art & Science Of Rational Decision Making’ all on-demand now.

Seth Lerer / University of California at San Diego

Seth Lerer is Distinguished Professor of Literature and former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on literature and language, most recently on Children’s Literature, Jewish culture, and the life of the theater. He has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism. His book, “Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past,” appeared in 2016, and his most recent book, “Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage,” was published in 2018.