'Hope and fear' in an election year to be topic of first Lenox Distinguished Lecture of the season


LENOX — A political scientist at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst will discuss "Hope or Fear: The 2016 Election" at the first Distinguished Lecture event of the season at the Lenox Library.

The free event is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday.

Michael Hannahan, lecturer in political science and director of the UMass Civic Initiative at the Donahue Institute, has specialized in researching the impact of grassroots political campaign activity, including direct mail and phone banks.

He was a senior adviser to acting Gov. Jane Swift, a Republican from North Adams, from 2001 to 2003. Hannahan has worked for political parties. He has also managed campaigns and political consulting firms, according to his UMass faculty profile.

His courses at the university, where he began teaching in the 1990s, include American Political Thought, American Government, Campaign Finance and Reform, and Modern Political Campaigns.

"Go to this lecture," urged Lenox Town Manager Christopher Ketchen at a recent Select Board meeting. Explaining that as a UMass student he took Hannahan's campaign courses, Ketchen described the professor as "not only very knowledgeable from an academic point of view but he also has a great deal of experience in campaigning."

In a phone interview, Hannahan commented that "the election is clearly between a Republican with a dark description of the country, which he sees as prey to terrorism, economically stagnant and threatened by immigrants who are changing our culture, and a more optimistic Democrat."

Describing Donald Trump as promoting "a nostalgic view of a different America," Hannahan sees Hillary Clinton and the Democrats as more outward looking, with a global world view and more hope about the economy since unemployment is around 5 percent, inflation is minimal and median household income was up by 5.2 percent in 2015 at $56,500 after nine years of stagnation.

"No one wins the presidency without a coalition, primarily the political parties," he added. "A lot of Republicans don't like Trump, but most will return to him. Some of his earliest, most vehement supporters feel that the nation should be a vision of 1950s white America, and Trump has given voice to that."

Hannahan describes himself as an independent, "moderate on domestic issues, a little more conservative on foreign policy and more liberal on social issues."

"I feel distant from people who describe the U.S. as in trouble," he said. "Our problems are fixable, though Trump has done a service by pointing out that people in the middle of the country, like my hometown of Springfield, Ohio, are worse off."

From the vantage point of history, Hannahan suggested that "the U.S. has problems like every country has, but we're fortunate to have the resources and innovative people to deal with our problems."

Hannahan received his master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and his bachelor's degree from Miami University.

He also lectured at the Lenox Library during the 2008 and 2012 general election campaigns.

Through the Civic Initiative at the Donahue Institute, Hannahan has managed 47 different exchange programs over the past 11 years and has spoken extensively in Pakistan, Iraq, Indonesia and Argentina. He has also managed programs in Croatia, Russia and Bulgaria.

The Civic Initiative is funded by the U.S. State Department. The program, which hosted 29 students from Pakistan this past summer, promotes democracy through education in both the U.S. and abroad, according to its mission statement.

Hannhan's upcoming talk is the first event of the 10th season of the monthly Distinguished Lecture series at the Lenox Library founded and curated by Jeremy Yudkin of Stockbridge, professor of music at Boston University.

To contact Clarence Fanto: 413-637-2551.

Lecture schedule ...

The 10th season of the Lenox Library's Distinguished Lecture series begins this weekend. All discussions are at 4 p.m. Sunday. There is no admission charge, though donations are encouraged:

Sept, 18: Prof. Michael Hannahan, UMass/Amherst: "Hope or Fear: The 2016 Election"

Oct. 23: Deborah Golden Alecson, bereavement educator: "A Good Death in a Death-Phobic Culture"

Dec. 4: Elwood H. Smith, illustrator: "An Art Career Morphs into a Circus"

Jan. 22: Rabbi David Weiner of Congregation Knesset Israel, Pittsfield: "Christians and Jews"

Feb. 19: "Lenox at 250, Session I": Special panel discussion on the first half of Lenox's history (1767-1880). Panel to include Charles Flint and Lucy Kennedy (early history), Carole Owens (1750-1800) and Bernard Drew (mid-19th century)

March 19: "Lenox at 250, Session II": Special panel discussion on the second half of Lenox's history (1880-2016). Panel to include Cornelia Gilder and Richard Jackson (The Gilded Age), David Roche (1940-1970), Olga Weiss (The Music Inn)

April 23: Lenox Library Director Amy Lafave on the newly published book "Images of America: Lenox"

Information: lenoxlib.org or 413-637-2630


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