Four Arts Series to Bring Kissinger, Plummer, Isaacson and More to Palm Beach

Every year around this time, I tend to keep an eye out for the Society of the Four Arts’ season announcement. That’s because the Palm Beach institution’s O’Keeffe Speaker Series is one of the region’s cultural treasures, offering rare opportunities to listen to, and even engage directly with, some of the smartest people in media, academia, arts and entertainment.

The series, which runs weekly from January through March, usually contains a small handful of above-the-fold marquee stars surrounded by equally interesting, if less-familiar, speakers. Next year, however, the Four Arts has managed to corral more household names than in any year I’ve been covering this venue. Apparently, word has got out: Escaping the winter chill of the Northeast for a couple days of R&R with an erudite island of intellectuals, amid the loveliest weather in the country, is tough to resist!

There’s just one minor complaint: The vast majority of speakers fall on the conservative side of the political spectrum, and while they will no doubt provide valued insights about our state of affairs, as someone on the left, I would have appreciated a better balance—one that more accurately mirrors the ideological spectrum of the Four Arts membershup. Only one speaker who identifies as liberal will take the stage, and he’ll share it with a Republican. Just sayin’ …

That said, check out this uniquely impressive lineup for 2019, with occasional notes from me in italics:

Walter Isaacson, “The Creativity of Leonardo da Vinci”

The Walter S. Gubelmann Memorial Lecture

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

Isaacson is arguably the preeminent biographer on the planet. His latest best-seller on Da Vinci arrives on the heels of exhaustive, deftly written bios of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and others.

Joe MacInnis, “In Praise of Empathy, Eloquence and Endurance”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

Eric Motley, “My American Inheritance: An Odyssey of Grace and Gratitude”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

David Brooks, “Politics Today”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

An NPR/New York Times Republican, David Brooks has maintained a bold NeverTrump perspective that has raised the ire of his party’s base and earned him grudging respect from his opposing party.

Andrew Roberts, “Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny”

The Harold and Helen Bernstein Memorial Lecture

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

Mary Matalin & James Carville, “Love & War: Twenty-Five Years, Four Presidents, TwoDaughters and One Louisiana Home”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

This one should be fiery. The married, dueling commentators for the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively, pull no punches when discussing policy and politics, but are an indelible reminder that love can overcome.

Christopher Plummer, “A Word or Two …”

The Esther Elson Memorial Lecture

Tuesday, February 19, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

Eighty-eight years young—and a Palm Beach County resident, we might add—Plummer has spent 65 of those years entertaining millions on stage and the Silver Screen, from his breakthrough as Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” to his 2018 Oscar nomination for “All the Money in the World.” Living legends don’t share their stories enough; cherish it.

Ben Stein, “America’s Economic Future”

The John R. Donnell Memorial Lecture

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

Immortalized in pop culture as the droning teacher forever taking attendance in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” actor Stein is more beloved by Republicans for his work outside of Hollywood: He was a speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford, and he’s a regular presence on political talk shoes, typically toeing the GOP line on economic and social issues.

Jonah Goldberg, “The Suicide of the West”

The Samuel J. Heyman Memorial Lecture

Tuesday, March 5, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

Richard Russo, “The Destiny Thief”

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

Henry Kissinger, “How the Enlightenment Ends”

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

If there’s any speaker who needs no introduction, it’s Kissinger, one of the most controversial secretaries of state and national security advisers in American history. He’s either a diplomatic peacekeeper or a war criminal, depending on who you ask. Lately, the nonagenarian statesman has shifted his focus to a vital, and less politically polarizing, subject: the rise of artificial intelligence, which is the subject of his Four Arts lecture.

Marlene Strauss, “Madame Helena Rubenstein: Cosmetic Empress, Collector Extraordinaire”

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 3 p.m.

$35; tickets sold at the door half hour before lecture begins.

For more on this series, visit fourarts.org or call 561/655-7226.