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Harvard's Robert Putnam to Address 'How Religion Divides and Unites Us'

Political scientist and author Robert Putnam, called "the most influential academic in the world today" by the London Sunday Times, will give a talk at Old Dominion University Thursday, March 29, for ODU Presents, a new lecture series focusing on the university's research initiatives and outreach efforts and featuring engaging speakers from a variety of disciplines.

Putnam's talk, "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us," begins at 7 p.m. in the Big Blue Room of the Ted Constant Convocation Center. It is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Guests are encouraged to RSVP to 3-3116 or www.odu.edu/ao/univevents.

Putnam is the Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. 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. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Academy, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and past president of the American Political Science Association.

He was the 2006 recipient of the Skytte Prize, the most prestigious international award for scholarly achievement in political science.

He has written a dozen books, translated into 20 languages, including the best-selling "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," and "Better Together: Restoring the American Community," a study of new forms of social connectedness. His "Making Democracy Work" was praised by the Economist as "a great work of social science, worthy to rank alongside de Tocqueville, Pareto and Weber."

Both "Making Democracy Work" and "Bowling Alone" rank among the most cited publications in the social sciences worldwide in the last half century.

Putnam has worked on these themes with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, as well as with British prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Ireland's Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and many other national leaders and grassroots activists around the world.

He founded the Saguaro Seminar, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners from across America to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal. His earlier work included research on political elites, Italian politics and globalization. Before coming to Harvard in 1979, he taught at the University of Michigan and served on the staff of the National Security Council. He is currently undertaking research on the challenges of building community in an increasingly diverse society.

Putnam's most recent book, "American Grace," co-authored with David Campbell of Notre Dame, focuses on the role of religion in American public life. Based on data from two of the most comprehensive national surveys on religion and civic engagement ever conducted, "American Grace" is the winner of the American Political Science Association's 2011 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs.

This article was posted on: March 27, 2012

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