Compassion Will Be the Focus of In-Person Downtown Lecture Series
The lectures will take place every Wednesday in October at 6 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre.

By Lori Harwood, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Sept. 28, 2021

The annual Downtown Lecture Series, hosted by the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, will return to an in-person format in October, after being held virtually last year.

Speakers for this year's series will address the topic of compassion from four approaches: spirituality and mindfulness; psychology and cognitive science; social conflict and public opinion; and racial justice and transformation.

Titled "Compassion: A Tool for Human Understanding and Liberation," the series will be held every Wednesday in October at 6 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.

Attendees can register online for free tickets. The Fox Tucson Theatre requires all attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of attendance. Masks are required. The talks will also be livestreamed for those who can't attend in person, with livestream links available on the lecture series website.

This is the ninth year of the popular Downtown Lecture Series. Previous years have focused on happiness, food, immortality, privacy, truth and trust in the global scene, music, animals and woman power.

"We are excited that we can return the series to its regular home at the Fox Tucson Theatre after holding the series online last year due to the pandemic," said John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "We hope people leave these talks with additional insights into the complexity of compassion and the ways it can be cultivated to help our own well-being and to create a more just world."

The Downtown Lecture Series is sponsored by The Stonewall Foundation Fund; Holualoa Companies; TMC HealthCare; Barbara Starrett and Jo Ann Ellison; Rowene Aguirre Medina and Roy Medina; and Tiana and Jeff Ronstadt.

Oct. 6: Compassion is Not a Luxury: Practices of Care in Community

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Jay Lacoste Sanguinetti
Jay Lacoste Sanguinetti

As we grapple with the struggles of this time, a growing interest in compassion as a path for healing from personal and collective trauma has emerged. In this talk, Leslie Langbert, executive director of the university's Center for Compassion Studies, will explore the power of practicing compassion in community, drawing on current research as well as the roots of compassion practices from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She will argue that compassion – used for self-care and reciprocal-care – is essential for our survival.

Oct. 13: Are Our Brains Wired for Compassion? The Science Behind Caring for Others

Our brains appear wired to respond to the suffering of others. In fact, our reward circuits fire when we alleviate suffering. In addition, cultivating compassion through training practices like meditation activates brain circuits related to positive emotion, reduces stress and leads to overall well-being. In this talk, Jay Lacoste Sanguinetti, associate director of the university's Center for Consciousness Studies, will explore the fascinating new science of compassion and how intentional cultivation of this ability may have wide-ranging impacts on our individual and societal health.

Oct. 20: Compassion for Whom? Shifting U.S. Conversations about Palestinians and Israelis

As the discourses over social and racial justice intensify in the United States, do attitudes toward the suffering of others in faraway places change as well? In this talk, Maha Nassar, associate professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, will discuss recent shifts in U.S. public discourse about Palestinians and Israelis, focusing on the rise in Black-Palestinian solidarity. She will examine the relationship between structural inequalities and social justice and addresses the question: For whom do we have compassion?

Oct. 27: Compassion as a Tool for Liberation and Racial Justice

Rather than waiting for compassion to appear as a "nice" feeling that suddenly overtakes us, a practice of radical care for one another can be forged out of sentiments of anger and frustration against injustice. In this talk, Buddhist minister, teacher and activist Lama Rod Owens will help us think about compassion as a practice more intentional than simple gestures of benevolence. He will discuss how by "sitting with our discomforts" about the state of the world, we can confront the traumas that harm us and speak the truths to one another that lead to healing and liberation.