Town Hall Seattle Civics Series-logo

Town Hall Seattle Civics Series


The Civics series at Town Hall shines a light on the shifting issues, movements, and policies, that affect our society, both locally and globally. These events pose questions and ideas, big and small, that have the power to inform and impact our lives. Whether it be constitutional research from a scholar, a new take on history, or the birth of a movement, it's all about educating and empowering.

The Civics series at Town Hall shines a light on the shifting issues, movements, and policies, that affect our society, both locally and globally. These events pose questions and ideas, big and small, that have the power to inform and impact our lives. Whether it be constitutional research from a scholar, a new take on history, or the birth of a movement, it's all about educating and empowering.


United States


The Civics series at Town Hall shines a light on the shifting issues, movements, and policies, that affect our society, both locally and globally. These events pose questions and ideas, big and small, that have the power to inform and impact our lives. Whether it be constitutional research from a scholar, a new take on history, or the birth of a movement, it's all about educating and empowering.








219. Elliott Young with Mayra Machado: How the United States Made the World’s Largest Immigrant Detention System

Today over half a million immigrants are caged each year, some serving indefinite terms in what history professor Elliott Young argues is the world’s most extensive immigrant detention system. These men, women, and children remain almost completely without rights, unprotected by law and the Constitution, and their status as outsiders, even though many have lived and worked in this country for years, has left them vulnerable to the most extreme forms of state power. Young offered a broad...


218. Michael Eric Dyson with Robin DiAngelo: Reckoning with Race in America

The night of May 25, 2020 changed America. George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed during an arrest in Minneapolis when a white cop suffocated him. The video of that night’s events went viral, sparking the largest protests in the nation’s history and the sort of social unrest we have not seen since the sixties. While Floyd’s death was certainly the catalyst, many believe it was the fuse that lit a powder keg that has been filling since America’s promising but perilous...


217. Tamara Payne: An Unprecedented Portrait of the Life of Malcolm X

In 1990, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Les Payne embarked on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. Following Payne’s unexpected death in 2018, his daughter Tamara Payne heroically completed the biography. Presented by the Northwest...


216. Steve Davis with Chelsea Clinton: Channeling Outrage to Spark Practical Activism

It feels like every day there’s something new to be outraged about, or a new piece of information about something that is already outrageous. But how can those feelings of outrage be used productively to create real change? Global social innovation leader Steve Davis believes he has the answer. In order to provide guidance on harnessing our outrage, Davis joined us in conversation with author and global health advocate Chelsea Clinton to discuss the ideas shared in his book Undercurrents:...


215. The History of Housing Segregation Today: How the Legacy of Redlining Impacts Seattle’s Housing Crisis

Segregation in America—the incessant kind that continues to dog our major cities and has contributed to so much recent social strife—is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state, and federal levels, researcher Richard Rothstein argues. He believes this is especially true for the racial segregation in our neighborhoods. In this presentation with the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County, Rothstein joined us to share findings from his book The Color of...


214. Eddie Cole with Shaun Scott: Campus Activism and the Struggle for Black Freedom

College campuses in the mid-twentieth century are an oft-forgotten battle ground in the fight for (and against) civil rights. Professor Dr. Eddie Cole believes the role of campus activism in the fight for social equality has been overlooked. In conversation with writer and historian Shaun Scott, Cole joined us with findings from his meticulously researched new book The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom. Focusing on the period between 1948 and 1968, he...


213. Ronald Chew with Naomi Ishisaka: My Unforgotten Seattle

For more than five decades, Ron Chew has fought for Asian American and social justice causes in Seattle. He joined us for this livestreamed presentation to share stories from his deeply personal memoir My Unforgotten Seattle. In conversation with journalist Naomi Ishisaka, Chew documented the tight-knit community he remembers, describing small family shops, chop suey restaurants, and sewing factories now vanished. He untangled the mystery of his extended family’s journey to America during...


212. Derek W. Black with Katherine Dunn: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy

From funding, to vouchers, to charter schools, public education policy has become a political football. Many feel that we are in the midst of a full-scale attack on our nation’s commitment to public education. And constitutional law scholar Derek W. Black contends that this assault threatens not just public education, but democracy itself. In this livestreamed presentation, Black shared from his book Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy. He offered an...


211. Senator Sherrod Brown with Dow Constantine: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America

Hugo Black, Glen Taylor, George McGovern, Robert F. Kennedy, Herbert Lehman, Theodore Francis Green, Al Gore, William Proxmire, Sherrod Brown. Did you know the common thread is a desk? Current desk occupant and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown joined us to share stories of those who preceded him. Utilizing anecdotes and history from his book Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America, he presented eight portraits of political courage that tell the triumphs and failures of the...


210. Laila Lalami with Viet Thanh Nguyen: Conditional Citizens

What does it mean to be an American? Author Laila Lalami joinsed us to discuss this question in conversation with fellow author Viet Thanh Nguyen. Drawing from her book Conditional Citizen, she recounted her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to US citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Tapping into history, politics, and literature, she interrogated how white...


209. Andrew Imbrie with Jen Psaki: Power on the Precipice—The Six Choices America Faces in a Turbulent World

Is America fated to decline as a great power? Can it recover? Foreign policy expert Andrew Imbrie joined us in conversation with former White House communications director Jen Psaki to weigh in on exactly these questions. With absorbing insight from his book Power on the Precipice: The Six Choices America Faces in a Turbulent World, Andrew introduced an essential guide to renewing American leadership. Though it may seem as though the United States is either destined for continued dominance...


208. Ambassador Capricia Marshall with Thomas Corrigan: The Power of Diplomacy

History often appears to consist of big gestures and dramatic shifts. But for every peace treaty signed, someone set the stage, using diplomacy to effect the outcome. Nobody knows this better than Capricia Marshall. Ambassador Marshall joined us to share unvarnished anecdotes from her time as the chief of protocol for President Obama. Pulling from her book Protocol: The Power of Diplomacy and How to Make It Work for You, she told the story of harrowing near misses, exhilarating triumphs,...


207. Combating Hate: Empathy Through Storytelling

World Without Hate seeks to replace hate and violence with empathy and love, restoring peace through storytelling and empathy education. They called together a panel of speakers from different storytelling backgrounds exploring the ways that empathy and stories help us connect with others. Through the transformative power of compassion, World Without Hate invited us to renew feelings of hope and empowerment in the face of divisive rhetoric and rising hate crimes across our nation. Come...


206. Senator Chris Murphy with Eric Liu: The Violence Inside Us

Many in America do not feel safe in spaces that used to be seen as refuges: our churches and schools, our movie theaters and dance clubs, our workplaces and neighborhoods. But this feeling begs the question: Is America destined to always be a violent nation? Pulling from his carefully researched and deeply emotional book The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy, Senator Chris Murphy joined us via livestream to attempt to answer this question. Telling the story...


205. Alice Wong with Elsa Sjunneson: Disability Visibility in the Twenty-First Century

One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, activist Alice Wong joined us via livestream in conversation with editor Elsa Sjunneson. Wong shared from her recent book, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, a curated anthology of contemporary...


204. Thom Hartmann: The Hidden History of Monopolies

American monopolies dominate, control, and consume most of the energy of our entire economic system–but we’ve broken the hold of behemoths like these before, author Thom Hartmann says, and we can do it again. In this livestreamed presentation, Hartmann shared how he believes monopolies threaten our systems and economy, and the damage that they have done to so many industries and individuals, pulling from his new book The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American...


203. Suzanne Nossel with Dinaw Mengestu: Defending Free Speech for All

Online trolls and fascist chat groups. Controversies over campus lectures. Cancel culture versus censorship. The daily hazards and debates surrounding free speech dominate headlines and fuel social media storms. In our highly digitized society, free speech is often invoked as a concept but rarely understood. Suzanne Nossel, a leading voice in support of free expression, joins us to deliver a user’s guide for free speech. In a livestreamed conversation with writer Dinaw Mengestu, Nossel drew...


202. Bob Wodnik and Joni Earl: Sound Transit’s Fight to Save the Light Rail

Observing its bustling stations today, it is difficult to picture Seattle and surrounding cities without Sound Transit—let alone imagine the agency teetering near collapse. But, as Bob Wodnik and Joni Earl recall, in 1996 the fledgling light rail program’s extended timetable and inflated budget led to a torrent of angry taxpayers and public ridicule. Wodnik and Earl took us back to this fraught era of Seattle public transit, drawing from Wodnik’s book Back on Track: Sound Transit’s Fight to...


201. E.J. Dionne with Ross Reynolds: Uniting Progressives and Moderates to Save Our Country

Broad and principled opposition to Donald Trump’s presidency has drawn millions of previously disengaged citizens to the public square and to the ballot boxes. Journalist E.J. Dionne stepped up to Town Hall’s stage to comment on this inspired and growing activism for social and political change—an outpouring of engagement which hasn’t been seen since the days of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and the Progressive and Civil Rights movements. He draws from his book Code Red: How...


200. Conor Dougherty with Alan Durning: The Fight for Housing in America

Spacious and affordable homes used to be the hallmark of American prosperity. But according to journalist Conor Dougherty, punishing rents and the increasingly prohibitive cost of ownership have turned housing into the foremost symbol of inequality and an economy gone wrong. Dougherty lead us on a fact-finding expedition to the West Coast epicenter of America’s housing crisis with perspectives from his book Golden Gates: Fighting For Housing In America. He was joined in conversation with...