Study Circles meet on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 - 9:00 pm

Discussion and Study Circles are held at Concord House, 1407 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara, CA


Topics included diverse expressions of the distinctive visions of America nurtured in American history. The ideas and ideals of the Founding Brothers such as Jefferson, Paine and Franklin provided a framework for focus on the aims and purposes of the American experiment. The distinctive visions of the Transcendentalists, the Progressive Reformers and the cultural innovators in literature, art and music were explored. How the development of educational opportunities and civic participation drew out the potential for individual freedom and social progress was analyzed, and the expansion of an inclusive global vision embedded in the promise of American ideals was evaluated. We explored the concept of "vision" and how these visions have influenced 20th century and contemporary society.
See below for topics discussed and suggested readings.






October 2

Early Visions in Colonial America
The concept of "vision" and its relevance to America; John Winthrop on the beacon light on the hill; the Mayflower Compact on civil obligation; Roger Williams on religious freedom and the seperation of church and state; William Penn on the principles of conscience and non-violence; Anne Hutchinson on the inner light.

Suggested readings:
1. Universal Visions of America

October 9

Founding Vision of the Republic (1776–1821)
The Declaration of Independence, self-evident truths, liberty, equality, consent of the governed, and the pursuit of happiness; Thomas Paine on Deism, the rights of man, and the right of revolution.

Suggested readings:
1. Religious and Poltical Thought of Tom Paine, James Tepfer
2. U.S. Declaration of Independence, Wikipedia
3. U.S. Declaration of Independence
4. U.S. Bill of Rights
. . . more to follow

October 16

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Thomas Jefferson on education and natural law; a brief video presentation of Clay Jenkinson, award-winning, first-person interpreter, portraying Thomas Jefferson  

Suggested readings:
1.Thomas Jefferson on Education, Wikipedia

October 23

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Benjamin Franklin on civil society and the value of science; the Great Seal of the United States

Suggested readings:
1.The Great Seal
Powerpoint presentation on The Great Seal

October 30

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Benjamin Rush on practical innovations and education for young women; the voices of women, including Mercy Otis Warren and Abigail Adams

Suggested readings:

November 6

Founding Vision of the Republic (continued)
Hector de Crevecoeur on "What is an American?"

Suggested readings:
1. What is An America?
November 13

Utopian Visions of Community
Visions of America in art: The Hudson River School; Contemporary communal experiment: Occident Arts and Ecology Center

Suggested readings:
November 20

Utopian Visions of Community (continued)
Communal experiments: the Shakers, Brook Farm, eco villages and green communities

Suggested readings:
November 27

Utopian Visions of Community (continued)
Native American visions and contributions: The Iroquois Confederacy, Black Elk and the vision quest; Native American relationships with nature (Ishi)

Suggested readings:

December 4

The Transcendental Vision
Ralph Waldo Emerson on self-reliance. We will read parts of the first half of the essay aloud during the meeting and discuss.

Suggested reading:
"Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

December 11

Holiday Break until January 2019

The Transcendental Vision
We will continue with reading Emerson's essay on self-reliance, the second half. We will read parts of the essay aloud during the meeting and discuss.

Suggested reading:
"Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson


January 8

The Transcendental Vision: Transcendentalism and The Oversoul
A brief explanation of Transcendental philosophy will be presented followed by discussion of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on the Oversoul. Passages will be read aloud and questions raised for the group to explore.

Suggested reading:
"The Over-Soul" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 15

The Transcendental Vision: The Oversoul and Its Contemporary Relevance
Study of Emerson’s essay on the Oversoul will continue. Questions about the ethical and practical influence of Transcendental ideas will be considered along with the scientific and social relevance of this perspective.

Suggested reading:
"The Over-Soul" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 22

The Transcendental Vision: Henry David Thoreau's "Higher Laws"
Discussion will focus on Chapter 11 of Thoreau’s Walden, entitled: "Higher Laws". Embedded in his description of what he learned while living at Walden Pond is his recognition of “Higher Laws.” The laws point to a more natural and universal basis for ethical living.

In 2014, Joseph Miller gave an inspiring talk on Henry David Thoreau at the Institute of World Culture. The lecture is entitled: "Henry David Thoreau–Still in the Mail: Messages from the Imagination", which centers on Thoreau's first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and his correspondence with Harrison Blake. To listen to that talk, click on the link to the left.

Suggested reading:
Click here for printer-friendly version of "Higher Laws"

Click here for an audio version of "Higher Laws"

Click here for audio lecture on Thoreau:

January 29

The Transcendental Vision: Educational Reform and the Ideals of Bronson Alcott
An introduction to an era of educational reform will review how Bronson Alcott pioneered in setting up schools based on a vision of education that evoked a creative, nonviolent and cooperative spirit in children. His vision challenged the traditional practices of strict discipline and rote conformity.

Suggested reading:

Link to Observations on the Principles and Methods of Infant Instruction:
Click on the book to turn the pages.

Reading on Bronson Alcott from "A Republic of Mind and Spirit"
by Catherine L. Albanese

February 5

The Transcendental Vision: Margaret Fuller and the Role of Women

Suggested reading:
Click here for printer-friendly version of "The Great Lawsuit" by Margaret Fuller

February 12

The Transcendental Vision: The Vision of Walt Whitman

Suggested reading:
Click here for "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman

Links to segments of an original performance of "Walt Whitman: Radical Patriot" by Joseph Miller to be taken up at the meeting:

“Take my leaves, America” & “I hear America singing” Link HERE (4:55)

“Beat! Beat! Drums!” & “To Thee, Old Cause”. Link HERE (3:41)

“Oh Captain, My Captain” Link HERE (3:01)

“We Two” Link HEREE (2:41)

Click here for a video of the entire performance of "Walt Whitman: Radical Patriot"

February 19

New Approaches to Religion: The Emergence of Metaphysical Religion

Suggested reading: Theosophy and New Thought
February 26

New Approaches to Religion: The First Parliment of the World's Religions (1893) and Its Legacy

Suggested reading: NA

March 5

Principles and Leadership for Change: William Lloyd Garrison &"The Liberator," and Frederick Douglass
Strong leadership emerges that gives organization to and offers highly public statements of the goals and values of the
abolition movement.

Suggested reading: The Liberator

March 12

Principles and Leadership for Change: Voices of Protest: David Walker and Sojourner Truth
A diversity of voices expand the protests to slavery and encourage
active efforts to change laws so as to abolish slavery. The personal sacrifice and vision of African American abolitionists is recognized.

Suggestsed reading:
"David Walker's Appeal"

March 19

Principles and Leadership for Change: The Leadership of Abraham Lincoln and The Gettysburg Address
The abolution movement reaches into Presidential thinking. A commitment both to national unity and a first step to the legal abolition of slavery by the federal government is taken.


March 26

The Influence of the West on Visions of America: Impact of the Frontier on the American Imagination, Part 1
The West becomes both an imaginative ideal and a practical
experience of self-reliant life-styles far from the urban centers of modern American life. Writers such as Mark Twain
capture the values of frontier living

Click here for suggested reading on Colonel Daniel Boone


April 2

The Influence of the West on Visions of America: Vision of National Parks and of John Muir
The rush to civilize nature in the 19th century led to a devastating loss of wildlife and habitat across America. John Muir spoke out courageously for the preservation of forests, lands and wildlife and became a leader in the conservation movement. Thus he inspired the development of the national parks, visited since then by millions of visitors.  Photos of select national parks will be shown.


Suggested readings:
1. John Muir Reading 1
2. John Muir Reading 2
April 9

The Influence of the West on Visions of America: Impact of the Frontier on the American Imagination, Part 2
How the frontier and the West continue to be, after the after the Civil War, both imaginative ideals and sources of practical, self-reliant life-styles far from the urban centers of modern American life will be discussed.  Cowboys and stories of Mark Twain reflect the values of frontier living.

Suggested readings:
Click here for "The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893)
Click here for "Debunking the Myth"


April 16

Reshaping the Public Space in America: The Nationalist and Socialist Vision of Edward Bellamy
A review of the writings of this visionary, particularly his novel, Looking Backward, reveals a provocative possibility of a society free from poverty and inequality. Readers flocked to join Nationalist clubs that sought  ways  to turn the vision into a reality. This vision became controversial when labeled socialism.

April 23

Reshaping the Public Space in America: Women's Suffrage Movement
It took women 72 years of organized political activity to gain the right to vote. How did four generations of American women establish this Constitutional protection? They invented a method of direct action and courageously confronted intense opposition.

April 30

Reshaping the Public Space in America: Jazz and Popular Culture
Ken Burn's wonderful film on "Jazz" traces the roots of the music that has defined America, from its beginings in Blues and Ragtime, through its evolution into Swing, Bebop and Fusion. Clips from interviews, pieces of music and historic films will be shown and discussion will focus around the relevance of jazz to the vision of American society.

May 7

Progressive Legislative Reforms 
In response to dramatic economic and social change in the late 19th century, many called for fundamental reforms such as the end of child labor, protections for industrial workers, protection for safe food, women’s suffrage, the elimination of slum conditions and the challenge to political corruption that prevented reform. Legislation at the state and national level was seen as the necessary tool for widespread reform.  Among the voices for change were several women who plunged into activism and promoted many reforms.

Suggested readings:
Click here for article on the Progressive Movement

May 14

Visions of America: The Ideal City 
Some American architects drew upon classical and renaissance conceptions of the ideal city. A number of these architects will be discussed, along with examples of their work in various cities of the United States, including the design of the Washington National Mall and Olmsted’s work in New York City.

Suggested readings:
Click here for article "10 Reasons for a new American Dream"

May 21

America Life in the Art of Thomas Eakins and Norman Rockwell 
The art of Thomas Eakins and Norman Rockwell reflect the America of their era.  Eakins has been celebrated as “the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth- and early-twentieth century American Art”.  Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life on The Saturday Evening Post, a popular magazine about American culture.  Examination of their artwork will reveal something about their lives and their vision of America.


May 28


Reflections on Visions of America 
Looking back on eight months of studying visions of America and learning about the many contributors to those visions offers a fruitful foundation for envisioning transformative visions for the future. The sharing of insights will be encouraged in a group discussion. Participants may bring quotations to illustrate their vision of America, thus far.
October 1 The Fundamental Revolution
What is meant by "revolution" in the 20th and 21st centuries in America? A key question to be addressed is if there is a revolution that is deeper than politics. What kind of transformation might emerge through new vocabulary and fresh visions of American values and goals? How might individuals develop an identity that is globally inclusive?  What does it mean to participate in revolution and society? These and more fundamental questions will be explored as an introduction to the topic of Visions of America in an Age of Globalization.

Suggested reading: "The Fundamental Revolution: from Elitism to Equality", Parapolitics by R.N. Iyer, Chapter 12, pages 222-238. Click here for reading

October 8 The Fundamental Revolution
We will continue with the discussion of "The Fundamental Revolution: from Elitism to Equality,"focusing on the second half of the article

Suggested reading: "The Fundamental Revolution: from Elitism to Equality", Parapolitics by R.N. Iyer, Chapter 12, pages 222-238. Click here for reading

October 15 Self-determination: Citizenship in a Global World
The meeting will focus on the historial development of the idea of responsible citizenship, as well as look at Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points for Peace,"

Suggested reading:
"Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points." Click here for reading
"Citizen Points" Click here for reading
"Citizen, History" Click here for reading

October 22 Mary Parker Follett: Creative Citizenship and the New State
Mary Parker Follett was a 20th c. social visionary whose principles have now pervaded how we experiment with a more self-governing society. Practical examples will be given and discussion encouraged.

Suggested reading:
"The Essential Mary Parker Follett: Ideas we Need Today,"
"Building a More Self-Governing Society," by Robert Biller

October 29 Beyond Insurance: A Public Option
We will listen to an audio recording of an interview with author Ganesh Sitaraman, a professor at Vanderbilt University, who speaks about his new book, The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality.
In the book, he argues that government involvement is more effective in promoting opportunity and equality.

Suggested reading:
Audio recording of inteview with Ganesh Sitaraman:

November 5 México's Place in a 21st Century Globalized World
Discussion will include asking questions like: what are some of the major contributions México has made to world culture, how do the Méxican people see their future, and others.

Suggested video to watch:
“The Storm that swept Mexico”


November 12 Visions of Inclusion
Discussion will focus on models of resettlement of refugees in Canada and the US, and a considerstion of Toronto as a city expressing post-modern multi-culturalism.

Suggested reading:
Cleck here for selection on Toronto from "Global Soul" by Pico Iyer

November 19 Diversity and Integration in Chicago
A short videos related to social experiments done in Chicago related to racial integration, poverty, and education by changing zip codes, and a few clips of a talk by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill related to the subject will be shown. The discussion will focus diversity and integration in Chicago, but examples of diversity and integration elsewhere are invited.
Suggested reading: No suggested readings
November 26 Cancelled due to wildfires above the city.
Suggested reading: NA
December 3 Martin Luther King and the Ethics of Non-Violent Protests
Discussion will focus on the ethical basis of non-violent protests, as well as the discipline and training required to participate non-violently, how the Birmingham march changed the nature of the movement when it allowed children to participate, and what, if any impact, the protests of the 60s might have had on huge, worldwide protests going on today.          
Suggested reading: Excerpts from "Why We Can't Wait" by Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.
December 10 George Marshall and The Marshall Plans
A brief biography of George Marshall and comments on his Marshall Plans related to reconstruction of Europe after WWII, and China will be presented. Discussion will focus on if these Marshall Plans are in someway relevant today.

Suggested reading:

December 17


This will be the final meeting of 2019. Check back in January for a new Study Circle topic.

Innovations Towards Global Harmony:
Peace Corp, Habitat for Humanity and Hip Hop

More information to follow                         

Suggested reading: