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Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone," to give lecture on "Community Engagement in a Changing America" March 28

March 11, 2005

"Television, two-career families, suburban sprawl, generational changes in values-these and other changes in American society have meant that fewer and fewer of us find that the League of Women Voters, or the United Way, or the Shriners, or the monthly bridge club, or even a Sunday picnic with friends fits the way we have come to live.  Our growing social-capital deficit threatens educational performance, safe neighborhoods, equitable tax collection, democratic responsiveness, everyday honesty, and even our health and happiness."

---from "Bowling Alone" by Robert D. Putnam


Robert Putnam

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Robert D. Putnam, author of the best seller "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community" (Simon and Schuster, 2000), will give a talk titled "Community Engagement in a Changing America" at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, March 28,  at Middlebury College.  Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, and founder and director of the Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University.  A question-and-answer period and then a reception will follow his lecture.  The talk and the reception, which are free and open to the public, will take place in Dana Auditorium in Sunderland Language Center on College Street (Route 125).

In "Bowling Alone," Putnam argued that civil society was breaking down as Americans became more disconnected from their families, neighbors, communities and the nation itself.  He provided numerous statistics to support his assertion that a sense of community has suffered as membership in bowling leagues, bridge clubs and similar organizations has declined.  David Nyhan of The Boston Globe said that Putnam had "put his finger on an important sociological development" and described the book as "relentlessly researched."

Putnam is the author of a number of other books as well, including "Better Together: Restoring the American Community" (Simon & Schuster, 2003), which describes some of the most compelling ways in which civic renewal is taking place today with stories about people who are building communities to solve specific problems.  In 1995 he founded Harvard's Saguaro Seminar, which brought together leading thinkers and practitioners to develop practical ideas for civic renewal.  He is currently studying the challenges of building community in an increasingly diverse society.

Putnam is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association.  Raised in a small town in the Midwest and educated at Swarthmore, Oxford and Yale, he has served as dean of the Kennedy School of Government. 

For more information, contact Joanne Leggett in the Middlebury College Dean of Student Affairs Office at or 802-443-5388.

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