The Society of the Four Arts has announced its 2017 O’Keeffe Lecture Series, and it doesn’t disappoint. Award-winning TV journalists, magazine reporters, think tank commenters, art historians and even the butler from one of the most acclaimed television series of the 21st century will grace Palm Beachers with their presences over the first three months of 2017.
Admission is free for Four Arts Members and $35 for nonmembers, and each lecture begins at 3 p.m. Here’s the lowdown.
Victor Davis Hanson: “What the President Needs to Know to Combat Terrorism”
Claim to fame: This military historian and conservative academic writes about politics and war for The National Review and The Washington Times, and he’s a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He’s written 19 books, many of them connecting ancient warfare to contemporary military adventures. With both major political candidates suffering from either a checkered foreign-policy record or none at all, each of them could likely learn a thing or two from Hanson’s presentation.
Adam Gopnik: “A Retrospective Look at America in the 1980s”
Claim to fame: Events of the ‘80s continue to ripple across our media, as evidenced by films like the recent “The Infiltrator,” about the Pablo Escobar drug empire; the HBO special “Confirmation,” about the contentious Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation; and the nonfiction TV series “Generation X.” Through his 30 years contributing dynamite essays and profiles in The New Yorker, Gopnik has penned illuminating pieces on countless topics, so he’ll no doubt provide new insights into this complicated decade.
Rebecca Goldstein: “In Defense of the Humanities”
Claim to fame: Star philosophers are few and far between in 21st century America, but this Massachusetts resident qualifies as one. A MacArthur Fellow, National Humanities Medal winner and a National Jewish Book Award recipient, her works straddle philosophy and science, often tying ancient wisdom to the modern world, as with 2014’s Plato at the Googleplex.
Arthur Brooks: “Bringing America Back Together”
Claim to fame: A onetime professional French horn player, this conservative-leaning Independent is the president of the American Enterprise Institute, where his work addresses culture, economics and politics. An advocate of compassionate conservatism and the importance of happiness, Brooks laments the rancor that has divided modern politics, and in this lecture, he offers solutions to heal the wounds.
Kate Andersen Brower: “First Ladies, from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama”
Claim to fame: This veteran Washington correspondent for Bloomberg News is intimately connected to the White House, having written the 2015 best-sellerThe Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. Her Four Arts lecture will tie into her latest book, First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.
Frank Bruni: “Fathers and Sons in Literature and History”
Claim to fame: A New York Times journalist well-versed in food and travel writing, Bruni graduated to the coveted Op-ed pages in 2011, becoming the first openly gay Times writer to do so. He has written an expose on sex abuse in the Catholic Church, a biography about George W. Bush and, most recently, a critical treatise on college admissions.
Jim Carter: “Tales from Downton Abbey”
Claim to fame: Carter played Mr. Carson, the butler in “Downton Abbey,” a show I’ve never watched (hold your gasps, please), earning four Emmy nominations in the process. He’s also a classically trained stage and film actor with credits at the National Theatre and on the silver screen—including “Brassed Off” and “Shakespeare in Love”—dating back nearly 40 years. But expect to hear mostly stories of his role on the landmark BBC powerhouse at this lecture.
Marlene Strauss: “Isabella Stewart Gardner: Her Collection and Museum”
Claim to fame: Strauss is the Four Arts’ resident art historian, and her annual presentation will spotlight the famous art collector and patron whose friends included John Singer Sargent, James Whistler and Henry James.
A. O. Scott: “In Defense of Criticism”
Claim to fame: Scott has been chief film critic for the New York Times since 2004, a job I wouldn’t turn down. He’s a witty, erudite and observant critic, and I’m not just saying that because we shared the same No. 1 film on our top 10 lists for the past two years (those would be “Timbuktu” and “Boyhood”). An accomplished book critic as well, Scott will defend his chosen art form and discuss his recent book Better Living Through Criticism.
George Packer: “The American Unwinding and the New Administration”
Claim to fame: Another fine “get” for the Four Arts, this National Book Award winner is one of the preeminent investigative reporters for The New Yorker, penning riveting essays on such wide-ranging topics as the Occupy movement, Amazon.com and the Arab Spring. Packer’s lecture is a sequel of sorts to his all-encompassing 2013 book The Unwinding, a history of national decline from 1978 to 2012, presented through the eyes of average Americans and public figures alike.
Mary Kissel: “Is Asia Lost to China?”
Claim to fame: Equally accomplished in the worlds of finance and journalism, Kissel worked at Goldman Sachs from 1999 to 2002. She joined Wall Street Journal Asia in 2004 and has since graduated to the editorial board of our Wall Street Journal. But Asia remains a specialization of this Harvard graduate, whose interviews have included the Dalai Lama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Clarissa Ward: “Syria and the Western Jihadi: Tales from the Front”
Claim to fame: At 36, Ward is one of the bright young stars of TV journalism, having accumulated enviable world knowledge over her 13 peripatetic years. She has covered the capture of Saddam Hussein, the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Israeli-Lebanese War. She’s reported for Fox News, ABC, CBS and CNN, where she’s worked from its London office since 2015. This chilling and sobering lecture will shine a light on a part of the world, and a culture, that makes news whether we like it or not.
For more information, call 561/655-7226 or visit fourarts.org.