Progressive Voices Speak Out

23rd Annual Lecture Series


Each year, starting in February and running through mid-March, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples (UUCGN), in cooperation with Common Ground of Naples, hosts a series of six thought-provoking lectures by a currently relevant lecturer or panel of experts.  The next Progressive Voices lectures will take place on Wednesday evenings, February 5 through March 11, 2020, with a reception with refreshments at 6:30 PM and the lecture at 7:00 PM, followed by a Q&A session with the audience.  All lectures are open to the public.


Admission:  A suggested donation of $15 per lecture, or $75 per person for the entire series.

Download a print version of the 2020 schedule.

Our Speakers for Winter 2020
February 5, 2020

Ted Thornhill, Ph. D. will be speaking on "We Want Black Students, Just Not You: How White Admissions Counselors Screen Black Prospective Students."  Most historically and predominantly white institutions (HPWIs) now desire some number of black students on their campuses.  However, recent theoretical scholarship suggests that HPWIs’ desire for and willingness to embrace black students is predicated on their racial palatability.  Professor Thornhill will discuss his recent study which found that white admissions counselors are more responsive to de-racialized and racially apolitical black students than they are to those who reveal a commitment to anti-racism and racial justice.  He will conclude by considering what his findings mean for not only college admissions and higher education, but the practices of white-administered organizations more broadly.


Dr. Thornhill is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Florida Gulf Coast University.  His research and writing examine color-blind ideology and new racism practices across social institutions and settings.  Thornhill’s latest study, published in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, investigated how white college admissions counselors screen black prospective students.  His writing has also appeared in outlets such as Urban Education, The Conversation, Inside Higher Ed, and The Grio.  Thornhill’s research and teaching has been covered by numerous media outlets including CNN, The Washington Post, BBC, Forbes, and The Boston Globe.  

February 12, 2020

Jim Kenney will be speaking on "Facebook, Twitter, and Election 2020 — Why Worry?”.  We now know a great deal about the ways in which social media platforms were used by foreign and domestic “bad actors” to manipulate and distort the 2016 electoral process and inflict lasting damage on our body politic.  What should we expect in the 2020 cycle?  Is Mark Zuckerberg, for example, taking steps to address the problem of dishonest and even destructive political posts?  And how has the Trump administration responded to the overwhelming evidence of sinister Russian interference?  How worried should we be?  Is there any good news to report?  Join Jim and find out.


Mr. Kenney is recognized around the world as a pioneer and leader of the global interreligious and intercultural movement.  He has lectured widely, in the U.S. and around the world, on a variety of subjects relating to politics, religion, history, and culture.  He was, for 45 years, the co-founder and Executive Director of Common Ground, a groundbreaking adult study center focusing on the world's great religious, philosophical, spiritual, and cultural traditions.

Jim will also be conducting two workshops at UUCGN:

Monday, February 10, 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM.   "The Menace of White Supremacy"

Charleston, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Christchurch, El Paso, and too many more! Why is the greatest terrorist threat of our time driven by white supremacist nationalism?  What’s the source of the central myth of American white nationalism: the mad trope of “the Great Replacement” (the imagined outnumbering and subjugation of white Christians worldwide)?  We’ll touch on a range of topics, from the Crusades to anti-Semitism and eugenics, and from slavery and the Civil War to the Obama presidency.  It’s something we all need to know about.

Thursday, February 13, 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM, "Global Trumpism?”


Trumpism, Brexit, and European nationalism and there any connection? Donald Trump has frequently tweeted his support of European ultra-nationalist leaders and parties and there are disturbing common threads.  Throughout Europe (and also in Africa, India, the Philippines, and elsewhere) the parallels are all too apparent: populist demagoguery, utopian myth-spinning, stunning disregard for truth, anti-feminism, anti-environmentalism, and racism.  But is the tide of toxic nationalism rising or ebbing?  Jim’s hopeful answer may surprise you.

February 19, 2020

Dr. Micah W. Kubic will be speaking on "The State of Civil Liberties in the State of Florida."  Dr. Kubic is Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.  Prior to this position, he served in the same role as executive director of the ACLU of Kansas for three years, and has more than twenty years of experience in civil liberties, civil rights, and racial justice work, and is active in many community organizations, including service on many boards of directors.  Dr. Kubic holds bachelors’ degrees from the George Washington University, as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate in Black Politics from Howard University.

February 26, 2020

Alejandro Becerra will be speaking on "Growing the Nation's Economy:  Why Immigration is the Key to Long-term Economic Growth."  This lecture will focus on the important role that low- and high-skilled immigrants have in the nation's job and economic growth.  It presents major reasons why halting or reducing immigration substantially would deal a crushing blow to the economy.  The lecture (1) debunks the myth that immigrants take jobs from millions of regular Americans, (2) provides evidence-based data that demonstrates how immigrants stimulate the national economy, (3) describes how restricting immigration would deal a long-lasting blow to Social Security, Medicare, and overall tax revenues, and (4) demonstrates how halting immigration, as in the classical case of Japan, can lead to long-term economic decline.  Overall, the lecture documents how immigration growth results in shoring up Social Security, generating billions of dollars in tax revenues, fueling and sustaining home purchase growth, and spurring economic growth.  

Mr. Becerra currently serves as the Director of Research, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.  He has served as Senior Housing Fellow at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and is the recipient of the prestigious National HOPE Policy Award for helping to achieve and sustain minority home ownership.  Mr. Becerra has also held the positions of deputy manager of field operations and liaison to local and state government housing agencies for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in southern Arizona, and Director of the Peace Corps in Paraguay.  Mr. Becerra was born in Mexico City and raised in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, and came to El Paso, Texas, at the age of eleven.  He obtained a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts Degree in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

March 4, 2020

Nancy Abudu will be speaking on "Voting Rights Today: Strategies to Move from Voter Suppression to Election Protection".  Across the country, and especially in the Deep South, a concerted assault on voting rights is taking place.  Since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation designed to increase voter registration, turnout and fair electoral schemes – we have seen a proliferation of policies that do just the opposite.  Alabama has enacted onerous photo ID requirements, Georgia continues to close polling places and purge voters at an alarming rate, and Florida legislators are erecting burdensome voter eligibility requirements.  The Supreme Court also has upheld extreme forms of partisan gerrymandering and approved of discriminatory voter purge procedures.  In response, the Southern Poverty Law Center and partner organizations have mounted a massive campaign to challenge these regressive policies, improve access to the ballot box, and demand government accountability.  Ms. Abudu’s talk will address these issues and many more as we gear up for the 2020 election season, the census, and the decennial redistricting cycle.

Ms. Abudu is the Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Voting Rights Practice Group.  In that role, she leads a team of lawyers, community organizers, and technical experts in protecting and strengthening the voting rights of minority communities and other politically vulnerable populations. 


Prior to joining SPLC, Nancy was the Legal Director for the ACLU of Florida and a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.  She has litigated a variety of civil rights and civil liberties issues in federal and state courts, including legal challenges to  state felon disfranchisement, proof of citizenship, and voter photo ID laws; and has pushed for greater enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, Help America Vote Act, and other federal laws.  Her practice areas have included criminal justice reform, free speech, reproductive rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBT rights, privacy and government surveillance, and education issues.

March 11, 2020

Claudine Schneider will be speaking on "Climate Change Mitigation."  The United States is in a significant transition period -– as substantial and as historic as the shift from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment/Renaissance.  We can neither shift rapidly, nor can we presume that "business as usual" will bring us the same benefits and success as it did in the past.  The way forward is one of sustainable development, clean tech jobs, and green communities.  Happily, this transition is well on its way.  We need to facilitate and accelerate this transition for governments, business, NGOs or foundations, either in the U.S. or anywhere in the world.

Ms. Schneider is the Founding President of Solar Alliance and former U.S. Congresswoman from Rhode Island.  Ms. Schneider’s background included interactions with heads of state both as a member of Congress, and afterward.  Topics focused on climate change, energy and the environment, and ecological economics.  Ms. Schneider was part of a BBC special with Prince Charles on Climate Change, briefed Margaret Thatcher on Climate Change in 1989, and was Federal Coordinator of the Coastal Zone Management Program.  More recently she organized 30 of the world’s leading solar manufacturers (BP, Sanyo, Sharp, etc.), installers and integrators into the Solar Alliance; built a consensus around the four policy goals needed to expand solar in the states; engaged 10 state governments to commit to solar expansion through specific policy changes; and hosted the first solar briefing for the NATIONAL Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.


The Honorable Claudine Schneider served in the U.S. Congress (R. 1980-1990) from Rhode Island.  She authored the first and only revenue-neutral Global Warming Prevention Act in 1988 -with 140 bi-partisan co-sponsors.  Parts of the 13-part bill became law.  Today, she continues her climate consulting work, but also serves on numerous boards focused on integrity and ethics in our national government.  

Reception: 6:30 PM. Lecture followed by Q&A with the speaker: 7:00 - 8:30 PM

Admission: $15 suggested donation per lecture or $75 per person for the series of six lectures.

All workshops are $10 each per person.

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples (UUCGN)
6340 Napa Woods Way (Phone: 239-455-6553)


UUCGN is east of I-75 off of Pine Ridge Road.  From Pine Ridge Road turn south onto Napa Blvd (second light east of I-75).  Turn right at the stop sign onto Napa Woods Way.  Continue curving towards the left to UUCGN parking area.

© 2020 Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples • 6340 Napa Woods Way • Naples, FL 34116 • (239) 455-6553


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