Public Affairs Theme 2023

Navigating the Now: tradition, innovation and wisdom in a world of change 

Yesterday, today was an imagined future, and tomorrow it will be the fading past: the present moment is powerfully situated between tradition and innovation. As the speed of global change continues to accelerate, we need to know how to boldly move forward without losing the best parts of what came before. How do happy, healthy, and ethical people navigate the disruptions and risks inherent in ever-changing lives? What does it take to learn from failures and strive valiantly into the future? How can we cultivate the courage to change while balancing our boldness with conviction, knowing when to innovate and when to hold fast to worthy principles, practices, or plans? 

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Public Affairs Conference, we will reflect on tradition and celebrate innovation and explore a variety of ways to both embrace change and to exercise strength in the face of struggle.  

The conference will explore questions such as these: 

  • How do we define “success,” and how does it define us? 
  • How do ideas of success, failure, and determination differ across cultures? What can be learned from culturally conscious conversations about effort? 
  • How do healthy people balance contentment with aspiration? 
  • What does it take to turn personal passions into satisfying professional lives? 
  • Can we learn how to reinvigorate ourselves, to practice perseverance, and to keep our passions alive? 
  • How can social institutions nurture and reward individual “resilience” and “grit” without misinterpreting systemic problems? 
  • How can ethical leaders understand and grow from—or reimagine—failure? 
  • When may quitting, pivoting, or falling back be the best steps forward? 
  • What are the ways in which strategic team-building can improve our responses to change?
  • What challenges at the forefront of numerous disciplines demand innovative responses? What ethical questions must accompany these innovations?