The crisp air lately isn't the only good thing about the fall. The onset of autumn also marks the return of the annual George T. Hunter lecture series, which begins its third season tonight at UTC with an evening with renowned author Malcolm Gladwell. His four popular books - the first three attained No. 1 status on The New York Times best-seller list - reflect the stature and range of interest that has become characteristic of the lecture series.
Simply put, this series brings the best speakers to town. The four in each of the last two seasons have been the most interesting, dynamic, provocative and entertaining the sponsors could find. That each speaker is selected for their prominence in one of the four areas of interest on which the community-building series focuses - the arts, education, environment and major national and global issues - makes it all the better.
The speaker list for this season promises to match that standard. Gladwell makes a compelling keynoter. His first three books - "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make A Big Difference" (2000), "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" (2005) and "Outliers: The Story of Success" (2008) - helps readers understand and hone their intuitive skills and analytical powers. Those books, and his fourth, "What the Dog Saw" (2009), a compilation of his stories in The New Yorker, suggest attendees will be in for an engrossing and fast-paced evening.
The Hunter lecture series is sponsored by the Benwood Foundation in collaboration with UTC, The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies and CreateHere. The goal is to promote a broader understanding of critical community issues and stimulate efforts to build a stronger, more cohesive community and better quality of life.
Though each speaker addresses different interests and different levels of engagement, each of the series' past speakers has offered unique viewpoints and insights. Madeleine Albright, the nation's first female Secretary of State, for example, provided personal insights into global political issues. Bill McKibben, the noted author of "The End of Nature," brought home the environmental crisis at both the macro and micro level. Frank McCourt, author of the best-selling "Angela's Ashes," gave his audience literary and historical insights and riveting, sometimes ribald, tales.
Fred Kent, founder of Project for Public Spaces, toured the city with devotees on bicycle, and showed us in his evening address a slide show reflecting the myriad ways that enriching public spaces can help revitalize, knit together and strengthen neighborhoods and city life. World-renowned historian Doris Kearns Goodwin not only brought Abraham Lincoln's biography to life; she also elicited guffaws with stories from our political and civic past from an overflow crowd that filled two theaters adjacent to the main Roland Hayes Theater. Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, shared stimulating insights on improving communities in environmentally challenged neighborhoods.
Future speakers in this season's series should prove to be equally appealing speakers. Mayor Cory Booker, the November speaker, is gaining national acclaim for making Newark, New Jersey, the new standard for transformation and urban revitalization.
Geoffrey Canada, the prominent and passionate founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, will share lessons in February from his pioneering and uniquely successful work to guarantee high educational attainment from birth to college for children and families in 100 blocks of Harlem.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, India's world-renowned environmental leader and thinker, will travel here in April to speak on environmental issues.
Tonight's address by Gladwell will be at 7 p.m. in UTC's Roland Hayes Hall at the Fine Arts Center. The public is invited, and these great events are free.