18 episodes

John Adams, the first American ambassador to the Netherlands, once said “Let us tenderly and kindly cherish...the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” The John Adams Institute has brought the best and the brightest of American thinking to Amsterdam for three decades. We have amassed a unique archive of great thinkers, speakers and writers, from Spike Lee to Francis Fukuyama to Al Gore. Now we’re sharing this treasure trove of thought and word with you. We believe John Adams would have wanted it that way. And so, from Amsterdam, this is: Bright Minds: the podcast from the John Adams Institute!

Bright Minds: from the John Adams Institute John Adams Institute

    • Society & Culture

John Adams, the first American ambassador to the Netherlands, once said “Let us tenderly and kindly cherish...the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” The John Adams Institute has brought the best and the brightest of American thinking to Amsterdam for three decades. We have amassed a unique archive of great thinkers, speakers and writers, from Spike Lee to Francis Fukuyama to Al Gore. Now we’re sharing this treasure trove of thought and word with you. We believe John Adams would have wanted it that way. And so, from Amsterdam, this is: Bright Minds: the podcast from the John Adams Institute!

    Ep 17: Hanya Yanagihara

    Ep 17: Hanya Yanagihara

    On March 11, 2022, Hanya Yanagihara returned to the John Adams for a conversation about 'To Paradise', her three-part story across three centuries, centered around New York City. To Paradise is a revisionist American history – not identical to the America as we know it but a ‘what if’ narrative, invested in raising concerns about America as a nation: what it has been, what it might have been and what it could be. An epic tale told across multiple timelines and characters, separate from each other, but providing major themes and takeaways for the reader. “A masterpiece of our time,” according to The Guardian.
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    • 41 min
    Ep 16: Christopher Hitchens

    Ep 16: Christopher Hitchens

    The late, great Christopher Hitchens came to Amsterdam in 2008 touring his book: God is Not Great.  Hitchens excelled at polemics. He considered himself to be politically liberal and yet expressed his full-throated support for the war in Iraq and called Hillary Clinton “an aging and resentful female”.  And then there were the blistering attacks on religion and religious belief. He also details: how religion is a worse than any totalitarian regime, why science and religion are fundamentally incompatible, and why it’s a bad time for secularism in politics. 

    Somehow, despite this talk being 13 years old now, his remarks about religion in politics, seem as relevant as ever.
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    • 29 min
    Ep 15: Donna Tartt

    Ep 15: Donna Tartt

    A gem from our archive! Way back on March 14, 1993, the then fresh new Southern author, Donna Tartt, visited the John Adams hot on the heels of her massive bestseller 'The Secret History', currently translated into 24 languages and counting.  
    'The Secret History' takes place at a fictional college where a close-knit group of six students embark upon a secretive plan to stage a bacchanal, a plan that ultimately leads to a death. Tartt has subsequently written 'The Little Friend' and 'The Goldfinch, the latter of which became a bestseller, a film and a Book of the Year by numerous publications including, New York Times Book Review, the Economist and NPR. 'The Goldfinch' even won the Pulitzer Prize.
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    • 29 min
    Ep 14: How Democracies Die

    Ep 14: How Democracies Die

    How do democracies die? Not at the hands of generals, but of elected leaders – presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power. That is the unsettling conclusion of Harvard professor Daniel Ziblatt’s highly praised book How Democracies Die.
    Ziblatt and his co-author Steven Levitsky have analyzed the collapse of various democracies in recent history, and compare them to the state of the US government today. Is our democracy in danger? Yes, says Ziblatt. He warns us against politicians who reject the democratic rules of the game; who deny the legitimacy of opponents; who tolerate or encourage violence; and who indicate a willingness to curtail the civil liberties of opponents, including the media.
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    • 42 min
    Ep 13: Toni Morrison

    Ep 13: Toni Morrison

    In 2009, one of the most important American writers of her generation took the John Adams Institute stage for the first time. Toni Morrison—as renowned for her magical realism as for her portrayal of the African American struggle—is that rare writer who is acclaimed by critics and adored by the reading public. In her novel, A Mercy, a mother gives away her daughter as she struggles for a better life, and the reader unravels the meaning behind seemingly cruel acts. Join us for an evening with this distinguished writer of whom the Nobel Prize committee wrote: “…in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, she gives life to an essential aspect of American reality. 
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    • 39 min
    Ep 12: Jonathan Franzen

    Ep 12: Jonathan Franzen

    The John Adams Institute, in co-operation with Prometheus Publishing House, proudly presented an evening with Jonathan Franzen, winner of the National Book Award 2001. Franzen discussed his novel The Corrections, which has been translated into Dutch under the title De Correcties. Michaël Zeeman, renowned literary critic for the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, introduced Franzen and moderated questions from the audience.
    The Corrections is a novel about the American Family. You could interpret it as a family soap opera of sorts, but Franzen has much more to say, giving a view on modern western society that is both humorous and poignant. The Lambert family takes you to everyday America and brings you into the world of ‘consumerism, pharmacology, biotechnology, the ‘optimistic egalitarianism’ of the American Middle West, the superstitious magic of the stock exchange, and the unbearable lightness of virtual being on the home pages of the Infobahn, not to mention asparagus steamers, refrigerator magnets, a vacuum pump to keep leftover wine from oxidizing, cell phones, and class hatred’ (New York Review of Books). It creates the illusion of giving a complete account of a world, and while we’re under its enchantment it temporarily eclipses whatever else we may have read’ (The New York Times).
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    • 41 min

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