Author of seven novels, including U.S. National Book Award Winner “Let the Great World Spin,” Colum McCann joined the Society of Skeptics on Tuesday, October 5 to discuss the value of storytelling in the Exponential Age. Specifically, Mr. McCann spoke about how society can use stories to shore up democracy and how people can shape the world through listening and storytelling.
For his exclusive talk at Blair, Mr. McCann wished to show the younger generation, specifically, “the value of optimism in the face of all the available evidence” currently impacting society. Watch his presentation below:
Over the course of his writing career, the Dublin native has received numerous national and international honors, including the U.S National Book Award, the International Dublin Literary Award, a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish Arts Academy, several European awards, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China and an Oscar nomination. His work has been published in over 40 languages, and in 2017, Mr. McCann was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Apart from storytelling on the page, the Irish author co-founded Narrative 4, a nonprofit global story exchange organization where Mr. McCann, who currently serves as president, encourages the community to tell effective stories for positive change. An essential component of that community, Mr. McCann reiterated, is youth.
“What I wanted for high school students to take away is the extent of the ways that they can change the world through telling their own stories and listening to the stories of others. I also wanted them to understand that optimism is far stronger and far less sentimental than the cynic,” summarized Mr. McCann.
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.