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A series of in-depth conversations with prominent authors, journalists, political observers, social critics, former public officials, and thought leaders examining the toxic divisions of America’s political landscape.

Visit ouYouTube channel to watch featured events.  

Video events premiere at 11 a.m. each day and are available for viewing at your convenience thereafter.

A Message to Our Audience

At the NYS Writers Institute, we believe that it is critical to engage in conversation with people representing the wide spectrum of political points of view we see in our nation. A discussion does not mean an endorsement.


Telling the Truth 2020 addresses the dangers of tribalism and polarization. All the speakers selected for this series—Left, Right and Center— affirm the need to promote dialogue and listen to diverse perspectives.


We have received a number of objections from individuals in the community about featuring Casey Mulligan and Joe Grogan, past members of the Trump administration. This event does not represent an endorsement of their political views, nor does it provide a platform for promoting political messages or policy agendas.


The primary focus of our Saturday conversation with Mulligan and Grogan is on the importance of opening channels of communication, avoiding the impulse to dehumanize those who disagree with us, promoting civility, and seeking the possibility of common ground.


In a series that specifically addresses political tribalism, polarization, and intense hatreds, we felt that we would be doing you — the audience—a terrible disservice if we did not reach out to representatives of political opinions that may be different from yours, and different from our own.


We value the views, concerns and objections of audience members and we encourage you to share them with us.


Thank you for your passionate engagement with our programming.  


--The New York State Writers Institute


“Now more than ever we need to listen to all sides.  You may not agree with what they are saying but we need civil discourse.”

Patricia Sibilia, President, League of Women Voters Albany County


“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again.

To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.

The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal.

This is the time to heal in America.”

President-elect Joe Biden, Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 7, 2020


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Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, Minyon Moore
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics
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Yolanda Caraway, Minyon Moore, and Leah Daughtry -- political strategists and organizers-- are coauthors with Donna Brazile of the book, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics (2018), a group memoir of four women who are among the most influential African Americans in the U.S. political sphere.

Yolanda Caraway served as Chief of Staff of the National Rainbow Coalition and Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign; Deputy Assistant Political Director for the Mondale/Ferraro 1984 presidental campaign; Director of the DNC’s Fairness Commission; and Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is currently President and CEO of The Caraway Group, a D.C.-based public relations firm that she founded in 1987.

Minyon Moore was Assistant to the President and Director of White House Political Affairs during the Clinton Administration, serving as principal political adviser to the President, Vice President, First Lady and senior White House staff. She also worked as senior advisor to Jesse Jackson, Michael Dukakis and Hillary Clinton during their presidential campaigns. She is currently a principal of the Washington D.C. political consulting firm, The Dewey Square Group.

Leah D. Daughtry served as the CEO of the 2016 and 2008 Democratic National Convention Committees, and as chief of staff to Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.​

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Amy Chua
Political Tribes: : Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
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Amy Chua is the bestselling author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (2018), a book that has helped to frame and define the current conversation about the nature of identity politics.


Tom Brokaw said, “Amy Chua’s insightful, provocative and deeply troubling book is the place to begin our long overdue national discussion on how to repair the deep divisions in the American political landscape. Political Tribes is a wakeup call to the dangers of surrendering national unity to a fractured landscape of feuding and narrow interests.” Tim Wu said, "A page turner and revelation, Political Tribes will change the way you think.”


Chua's runaway global bestseller, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011), examined differences between Western and Chinese parenting.


Amy Chua is the John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Her first book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, a New York Times bestseller, was selected by both The Economist and the U.K.'s Guardian as one of the Best Books of 2003. Her second book, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance-and Why They Fall, was a critically acclaimed Foreign Affairs bestseller.

More at

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David Hopkins
Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics
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David Hopkins is the author of Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics (2017), a book that explains how and why the American electoral map has become deeply and persistently divided into red states and blue states, and explores the important consequences of this trend for candidate strategy, party competition, political polarization, and the functioning of American government.


UC Berkeley Professor Paul Pierson said, "Striking maps of 'red' and 'blue' America have become a staple of political punditry, but not a foundation for deep analysis - at least until now. In this path-breaking book, David A. Hopkins offers a powerful yet subtle account of how American electoral institutions have intensified geographic divides, and how those divides in turn shape our increasingly polarized and troubled politics. Brilliant."


A professor of political science at Boston College, Hopkins is also co-author of Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (2016); and Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics (2020).


His writings about American politics have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Vox, and other publications, and he blogs regularly about current events at

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John Lithgow
Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown
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John Lithgow renowned American actor, has received two Tony Awards, six Emmys, two Golden Globes, and two Oscar nominations. He has starred in the hit TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dexter, The Crown, and Perry Mason, and in critically acclaimed films such as The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment. In the 2019 film Bombshell, he portrayed the late Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News who resigned after 23 women accused him of sexual harassment. Lithgow has performed on Broadway 25 times and in England with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. 

The author of nine children's picture books, Lithgow has published two bestselling collections of satirical poetry, Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse (2019), and Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown: Verses for a Despotic Age (Sept. 2020). The reviewer for Kirkus said of the sequel, "As with the first volume, this one is a short, succinct, laugh-out-loud affair, and no one in the Trump administration is above Lithgow's eagle-eyed scrutiny.... A hilarious and pertinent parody to help pass the time until the November election decides the nation's fate." Both collections are illustrated with Lithgow's own line drawings.


“I’m basically a fairly spineless person, politically,” Lithgow says. “I have my passionate politics but I keep them to myself. There’s something in me that edits myself because I’m an actor, because I feel hesitant to trade on my celebrity — to the extent that I have any — to put forth my own political opinions. But the Trump era has sort of changed that. I think it’s happened with a lot of people. You just become more vocal because you’re more distressed by the situation.” 

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Casey B. Mulligan and Joe Grogan
A Conversation with Key Trump Administration Insiders
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Casey B. Mulligan served as the Chief Economist of President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers (Sept. 2018-Aug. 2019). His new book is You’re Hired!: Untold Successes and Failures of a Populist President (Sept. 2020), which provides a front row seat for anyone interested in policy and politics inside the Trump White House. David R. Henderson of Stanford University's Hoover Institution said, "Profound, important, entertaining, economically solid, and easy to read. It will be one of the most important books of 2020." Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Mulligan has published numerous opinion pieces for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post and Chicago Tribune.

Joseph Grogan served as Director of the United States Domestic Policy Council and assistant to President Donald Trump (Feb. 2019-May 2020). He earned a B.A. in English in 1994 at the University at Albany, where he studied with the late Tom Smith, Director of the New York State Writers Institute. Grogan served as Trump’s lead advisor on a variety of domestic policy issues relating to health care, regulation, economic expansion, commercial space exploration, environment, agriculture, civil rights, and education. On the subject of health care policy, he is widely recognized as a thought leader on the political right. 

Grogan's dramatic expansion of the Domestic Policy Council from a minor office to a central White House advisory body is the subject of a June 2019 feature article in The Atlantic, "How a Forgotten White House Team Gained Power in the Trump Era."

Joseph Grogan's LinkedIn page.

Craig Newmark and Jeff Jarvis
Media literacy in the internet age 
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Craig Newmark is the founder of Craigslist, the web-based platform that has fundamentally changed classified advertising. Since its founding in 1995, craigslist has become one of the world’s 10 most-visited English language web platforms. Today there are craigslist websites virtually everywhere and serving every continent on earth, except Antarctica, at least according to his biography from Newmark’s induction into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012.


In addition to being a Web pioneer, Newmark is a speaker, a philanthropist and a self-described “old-school nerd.” Through his Craig Newmark Philanthropies, he has contributed tens of millions of dollars to support the people and organizations that protect values that America aspires to: fairness, opportunity and respect.


Jeff Jarvis is Director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and Tow Professor of Journalism Innovation at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. Jarvis is a national leader in the development of online news, blogging, the investigation of new business models for news, and the teaching of entrepreneurial journalism.


He writes an influential media blog, He is the author of several books, including Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Futures for News and What Would Google Do? He has consulted for several media companies and previously worked as a columnist, editor and writer for a number of publications and also was the creator and founding managing editor of Entertainment Weekly.

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David Pietrusza, Carolyn McLaughlin & José E. Cruz
Post Election 2020 with a presidential historian, politician & political scientist
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Award-winning historian David Pietrusza has been called "the undisputed champion of chronicling American Presidential campaigns.” His books include studies of the 1920, 1932, 1948, and 1960 presidential elections and biographies of Theodore Roosevelt (Independent Publisher Book Awards Silver Medal, US History), gambler Arnold Rothstein (Edgar Award finalist) and Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis (Casey Award winner).


Honorable Carolyn McLaughlin has 29 years of experience in public service, preceded by 10 years as a research chemist in the areas of cosmetics development and nuclear weapons research.


As a member of the Black Women’s Association of Albany (BWAA), she is involved in numerous activities designed to promote the educational development of girls, including serving as Vice –President and as a member of the Scholarship Committee. The BWAA annually awards scholarships to female high school graduates of the Capital Region. 


In addition to his affiliation with the Political Science Department at Rockefeller College, Professor José E. Cruz has a joint appointment in the Department of Latin American, U.S. Latino, and Caribbean Studies (LACS) at the College of Arts and Sciences. His research is about Latino political participation in the Northeast, focusing on Puerto Ricans, and the role and impact of ethnicity in the political process. 

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Allison Schrager and Michael Strain
Bridging the Political Divide: Leading Thinkers of the Center Right
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Allison Schrager, financial economist and expert on risk, is the author of An Economist Walks into a Brothel (2019), a fun and provocative examination of the nature of risk in a variety of settings, from poker and horse racing to sex work and surfing in shark-infested waters. A Financial Times book of the month, it has been called "the most entertaining book on risk management ever written" (Booklist). Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert C. Merton called it "delightful," and said, "Whether a complete novice or a seasoned risk professional, the reader is in for a treat."

Schrager is Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a leading conservative, free-market think tank, where her research focuses on public finance, pensions, tax policy, labor markets, and monetary policy. She is also a contributing editor to that organization's public policy magazine, City Journal, and a regular contributor to The Economist, Reuters and Bloomberg Businessweek. A self-described "pension geek," she is a cofounder of the risk advisory firm, LifeCycle Finance Partners, and previously led retirement product innovation at Dimensional Fund Advisors. More at


Michael Strain, economist and Bloomberg Opinion columnist, is the author of the 2020 book, The American Dream is Not Dead (But Populism Could Kill It), which presents the argument that "there has never been a better time to be alive in America." Writing in The Washington Post, George Will called it, "An inoculation against politically motivated misinformation," and President Clinton's Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said "[this] important book is a welcome antidote to the pervasive pessimism surrounding economic policy debates."


The National Review named Strain "the most important conservative reformer," and David Brooks of the New York Times has called his work "the most coherent and compelling policy agenda the American right has produced this century." Strain is Director of Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. In addition to Bloomberg, his work has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Weekly Standard. He also appears regularly on NPR's "Marketplace," MSNBC and CNBC.

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Elif Shafak
How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division
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Elif Shafak award-winning British-Turkish novelist and essayist, is celebrated throughout the world for her advocacy of free speech, the safety of journalists, and the rights of women, the LGBT community, and minorities. Translated into 54 languages, she is also the best-known female author within her native Turkey.


Her new book is How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division (August 2020), a pocket-sized manifesto. The Guardian named it one of the "Best Books to Inspire Compassion," and Cosmopolitan named it a "Revolutionary Read."


Shafak writes in both Turkish and English, and has published 18 books, 11 of which are novels. Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and chosen Blackwell’s Book of the Year. Her previous novel, The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.


Read more about Elif Shafak at

George Will 
Author and conservative commentator
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George Will is one of America's foremost conservative intellectuals. A columnist for the Washington Post since 1974, he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977. His twice-weekly column is featured in 400 newspapers across the US and Europe and his biweekly back-page column for Newsweek ran from 1976 to 2011. Currently a contributor for MSNBC and NBC News, he has made countless appearances on iconic political talk shows, including This Week with David Brinkley and George Stephanopoulos, Meet the Press, and Agronsky & Company. In 1986, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed him "the most powerful journalist in America."


His new book is a New York Times bestseller and "Notable Book," The Conservative Sensibility (paperback, Sept. 2020), a magnum opus on the notion of natural rights, and the brilliance of America's founding political philosophy. Jonah Goldberg called it, "Staggeringly good. Easily one of the best books on American Conservatism ever written."

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