Tough topics, curious minds, honest conversations.

It seems there are more and more topics we shy away from out of fear of offending, being shouted down, or getting “canceled.” We in the philanthropy sector can either accept this as a new reality, or we can remember that our voices have value. We can and we should be able to talk about just about anything—to explore our own thinking and the thinking of others, to understand ideas that various people hold and why they hold them, to discover what we will commit to standing up for, and to understand why we hate the evil ideas we do. Can We Talk About It? centers around these topics. Each week, we’re going to celebrate success and all the great work philanthropy does.  We’re going to get uncomfortable sometimes. We’re definitely going have fun. And we’re going to rediscover our voices.

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Episode 14

As the political climate ebbs and flows, victories and opinions in the courtroom can often last for generations. This week, Carrie Ann Donnell of American Juris Link joins Debi Ghate to discuss the pro bono work of public interest litigation, the coordination between public interest firms to protect the rights of defendants, and the necessity of firms’ donor privacy, as they litigate on many sensitive and controversial issues.

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Episode 13

Having taken in 10 foster children and adopted four, CEO and founder of Gen Justice Darcy Olsen Olsen is intimately aware of the grim reality of the foster care system. In this week’s episode, she joins Debi Ghate to talk about both the joys and heartbreak of fostering – and the work she does with Gen Justice to ensure the legal protection and to protect the rights of the approximately 400,000 children in foster care.

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Episode 12

Is there such a thing as a shared American identity? Is one even possible when we have a lack of shared vocabulary and interaction with those who think differently from us?  John Wood, Jr., national ambassador for Braver Angels, joins Debi Ghate to discuss his close, personal experience with individuals of various beliefs and backgrounds. He describes the work of Braver Angels to reinvigorate conversation and reduce political polarization, by humanizing partisan opponents – and hopefully discover why they see the world the way they do. We may not agree with one another, but we will understand one another better, a necessary step to improving discourse.

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Episode 11

The mission of the American Contemporary Ballet is to "produce and present choreographic works of the highest quality that exemplify dance as a musical art form." Yet there have been loud threats and demands that the company and its troupe declare themselves aligned with political causes, sign statements or even change its dance repertoire. 

ACB's director Lincoln Jones talks with host Debi Ghate this week about the nature of ballet, his company and the ideas threatening the essential freedom and individual voice and expression of the artists.

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Episode 10

On March 26, 2021 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Philosophy Professor Nicholas Meriwether in the case of Meriwether v. Trustees of Shawnee State University. What was this case all about? In January of 2018, Meriwether refused to call a biologically male student by the requested pronouns “she/her.” Although he offered to refer to the student by any proper noun requested, his university threatened disciplinary action and later issued an ultimatum. Joining Debi Ghate, Nicholas and attorney Tyson Langhofer discuss the ideological implications of a pronoun, freedom of religion and free speech and the very purpose of the university in this week’s episode.

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Episode 9

Around the 60s and 70s, conversations around civil rights and racial equity began to shift from a focus on color blindness and equality of opportunity to color consciousness and equality of results. In this episode, Debi Ghate is joined by Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Mike Gonzalez as they explore the historical development of critical race theory and race-conscious policies, and the role philanthropy has played in it, identity politics, and his new book “The Plot to Change America.”

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Episode 8

Can privilege expand beyond race, gender and sexual orientation to include worldviews? If so, is there such a thing as progressive privilege? Carrie Lukas, President of the Independent Women’s Forum, suggests there is. She says “privilege” does exist, and it is usually aimed at whites, males and straight people. Yet in some parts of our culture, such as the academy and the media, the progressive view dominates in a way that also creates a marginalized and a privileged group. Join Debi Ghate as she discusses Lukas’s monograph, “Checking Progressive Privilege,” a controversial but very thought-provoking piece that challenges us to rethink “privilege.”

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Episode 7

Many symbols of the American dream can be found in the construction industry. Debi Ghate hosts President of Michigan Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Jimmy Greene this week to discuss some of those analogies, protecting merit-based and free-enterprise building, the relationship between merit and justice, and the importance of educating against prejudices to produce proactive, rather than reactive justice.

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Episode 6

In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League recorded the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in its 40 years of tracking. This week, Debi Ghate is joined by New York School of Law Professor Nadine Strossen and Kenneth Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate. They will discuss the reality of anti-Semitism, the larger context of racism and injustice, censorship and the academy and reducing hateful attitudes through more expression and free speech—not less.

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Episode 5

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. joins Debi Ghate in a conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion mandates. They’ll address how diversity makes for better decision making, the integral nature of diversity and inclusion, and the difference between equality and equitability. Do mandates really create the outcomes we want? Can DEI happen without mandates? And if mandates don’t work for DEI, why do we think they work for other employment issues?

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Episode 4

Working non-stop to communicate COVID-19 news to the public has given Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, an inside look at the pandemic from both a clinical and policy perspective. The new public attention to himself has come with criticism and even hate mail. In this episode, Adalja reflects on partisanship, the authority of public health experts and the CDC, WHO reform, and his experience on the ground in a public health crisis.

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Episode 3

Debi Ghate talks with journalist, editor, and New York Times columnist Bret Stephens about freedom of speech and the contrast between the freedom to offend v. freedom from offense. The two discuss the necessity of comedy in free societies, the rise of cultural “heretics,” and the reputational defenestration of comedians who push boundaries in the pursuit of their craft.

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Episode 2

Professors Stephanie Shonekan and Adam Seagrave identify the need for a shared understanding of what equality means for a diverse student body. In this episode, host Debi Ghate talks with them about the events that transpired to launch a course called “Citizenship@Mizzou” and the “Race & the American Story” project across various campuses. The project has become a rare space in the academy for a serious conversation about citizenship and race in America.

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Episode 1

On our first episode, Debi discusses the inspiration behind this podcast—the murder of Theo van Gogh (the great-grandnephew of the famous Dutch painter), in the Netherlands in 2004. This was not some random mugging or drug offense gone wrong; Van Gogh was murdered because he directed a short film written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali called Submission: Part 1. The film took a critical look at how women are treated under Islam.

Ayaan discusses the aftermath of Van Gogh's death, her new book Prey: Immigration, Islam and the Erosion of Women's Rights, and the role of philanthropy in today's society.