Chautauqua Leadership Stays Mum On Ampitheater’s Future

To The Reader’s Forum:

The themes at Chautauqua these past weeks have focused on civil discourse, history and memory. The president of Kent State spoke, as did the director of the Holocaust Museum.

Chautauqua is to be commended for understanding that senseless tragedies demand to be remembered in order to “create meaning and help us navigate this world.” But it’s strikes me as highly ironic that this event was held at an institution whose leaders worked so hard to demolish a vital piece of its own history — the Chautauqua Amphitheater, which historians have called its “most sacred place.”

Again and again, Chautauqua’s leadership dodged honest, real civil discourse during the debate over the Amp’s future in favor of stage-managed PR stunts. And that helped pave the way for its destruction. In its place, we are left with a replica better suited to an amusement park than to a site where the narratives on women’s suffrage, social justice and equal rights gained traction.

The real takeaway here is that we have to actively encourage civil discourse if we hope to preserve our remaining national treasures in order to “package the past in in order to ease the present and make it more it more useful for the future.” Because there’s an obvious reminder in our own backyard of what can happen when we do not.

Brian J. Berg

Chicago, Ill.