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Panel on the American Dream to take place April 12

Thursday, March 31, 2016

LAWRENCE — Scholars at the University of Kansas are calling for a new social contract for the 21st century, one that will promote inclusive social policies and make the much-sought-after American Dream easier to reach. Professors Edward Scanlon and Terri Friedline, both of KU’s School of Social Welfare, will discuss this new social contract at a public event at 3:30 p.m. April 12 at the Hall Center for the Humanities' main conference hall.

The event, More Than a Dream: A New Social Contract for the 21st Century, is based on a paper of the same title. In the paper, Scanlon and Friedline argue that while the “American Dream” trope has immense historical resonance, structural and political changes in the U.S. have reduced its salience for a growing number of citizens. Many people have struggled to fully realize their American Dream and, at the same time, others find their dream slipping out of reach. In order to address the existing structural and political changes and bring the American Dream back into focus, Scanlon and Friedline propose a 21st century social contract that emphasizes the positive freedoms needed to promote political equality, economic opportunity and financial inclusion.

Scanlon and Friedline will be joined by panelists — scholars from other disciplines with related expertise — who can weigh in on the discussion. Together, the panel will address such questions as the feasibility of establishing a new social contract in a politically polarized climate, whether and how political equality can be achieved, and the policies needed to support families’ abilities to earn living wages and invest in their futures.

Jennifer Hamer, chair of the Department of American Studies, has extensive expertise related to family life and understands the difficulties families face when trying to earn a decent living. Her research has focused on African-American families and how they negotiate life in communities that have long been abandoned by economic opportunity.

In his role as director in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, Yasuyuki Motoyama has studied the potential of entrepreneurship to revitalize regional economic growth and to serve as a pathway to economic opportunity. Indeed, Motoyama’s research is critical to understanding solutions to reviving economic opportunity in communities across the country.

Public opinion and political debate are also central to this discussion, and the panel will benefit from the expertise of Don Haider-Markel, chair of the Department of Political Science. Haider-Markel has studied changing public opinion and the actions of existing political movements, and his expertise can illuminate what is needed to shift the paradigms of the American Dream and the social contract.

The event will also feature audience engagement, inviting attendees to articulate their own perspectives on creating a new social contract. Attendees will be able to share their perspectives before and after the panel by writing a phrase or a short sentence on a dry erase board, which will then be photographed to capture attendees’ perspectives.

Please RSVP for the event online, or by emailing hallcenter@ku.edu or calling 785-864-4798. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served, and free public parking is located adjacent to The Hall Center.

The event is sponsored by The Hall Center, Institute for Policy & Social Research, the School of Social Welfare and the Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion.


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