Berkeley Talks

  • 199. Harry Edwards to sociology grads: Even in turbulent times, always believe in yourself

    In Berkeley Talks episode 199, Harry Edwards, a renowned sports activist and UC Berkeley professor emeritus of sociology, gives the keynote address at the Department of Sociology’s 2024 commencement ceremony. “As I stand here before you, in the twilight of my life's time of long shadows,” said Edwards at the May 13 event, “from a perspective informed by my 81 years of experience, and by a retrospective assessment of the lessons learned over my 60 years of activism, what is my advice and message to you young people today? What emerges as most critically germane and relevant in today's climate?“First: Even in turbulent times, in the midst of all of the challenges, contradictions and confusion to be faced, never cease to believe in yourself and your capacities to realize your dreams. “From time to time, you might have to take a different path than you had anticipated and planned, but you can still get there. Achievement of your dreams always begins with a belief in yourself. Never allow anyone to dissuade you of this imperative disposition. And if someone so much as even tries, you tell them that the good doctor said you need to go and get a second opinion.”Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.UC Berkeley photo by Allena Cayce.
  • 198. Feeling like a failure isn't the same as failing, filmmaker tells journalism grads

    In Berkeley Talks episode 198, documentary filmmaker Carrie Lozano delivers the keynote address at the 2024 Berkeley Journalism commencement ceremony. Lozano, who graduated from the school of journalism in 2005 and later taught in its documentary program, is now president and CEO of ITVS, a nonprofit that coproduces independent films for PBS and produces the acclaimed series, Independent Lens. “I've had a lot of tough moments in my career, sometimes feeling like I was not going to recover,” Lozano told the graduates at the May 11 event. “I have put energy into my process for dealing with staggering mistakes and things that don't work out.“First, I own my mistakes. We all make mistakes and it's OK to own them and take responsibility. And it's so liberating actually to just take responsibility for them. And then I do this: I allow myself, depending on the gravity of the situation, time to sulk or to cry, to be depressed, to be upset, to be angry, to feel all the feelings. But I am finite about it. Some things require a few hours. Some things might require a few days. Some things might require therapy. Whatever it is, I figure it out.“And then, I just try to figure out: What did I learn? How can I make it worth it? That was so damn painful … how can I make this mean something to me? How can I do better next time? Or at least not repeat it?"“It's super helpful to know that the feeling of failure is not the same thing as failing," she continued. "It's part of being human. It's part of growing. It's necessary. It's messy. It's life.”Berkeley Journalism recently launched a $54.4-million campaign to support the next generation of journalists whose stories will affect democracy, justice, human rights and the health of our environment. Learn more about the Campaign for Berkeley Journalism.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.UC Berkeley photo by Amin Muhammad.
  • 197. Berkeley commencement speeches celebrate resilience, bravery

    In Berkeley Talks episode 197, we're sharing a selection of speeches from UC Berkeley's campuswide commencement ceremony on May 11. The first speech is by Chancellor Christ, followed by ASUC President Sydney Roberts and ending with keynote speaker Cynt Marshall, a Berkeley alum and CEO of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks."I believe the future of our democracy depends on our ability to engage in civil discourse across the divides and reject the forces of division and polarization," Christ began, as hundreds of graduates chanted in protest of the war in Gaza. "Given recent events and the scourge of COVID, I can only marvel at how you've navigated these complicated times. "Your presence here today is a testimony to a remarkable accomplishment whose meaning and worth will serve you well in the days to come. We could not be prouder."Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small for UC Berkeley.Music by Blue Dot Sessions.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News (
  • 196. Ruth Simmons on access and equity in higher education

    In Berkeley Talks episode 196, Ruth Simmons, a longtime professor and academic administrator, discusses how the journey to equal access and fairness in education has reached a critical inflection point — and why educators are essential to the progress we need to see.“History has shown: The failure to resolve satisfactorily the issue of whether and how the state should address the causes and effects of discrimination will continue to impair progress, sow seeds of hatred and despair, and make even more distant the goals and ideals enshrined in the United States Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution,” Simmons said during the Clark Kerr Lecture at UC Berkeley in April.   “Yet, as we know,” Simmons continued, “considerable efforts have been undertaken by various branches of government, non-profit institutions, for-profit institutions, educational institutions and activists to reconcile the immense differences over what constitutes appropriate remedies for past and present discrimination. That we have failed to resolve this question adequately almost 250 years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights proves the intractability of the dilemma.”Simmons, currently the president's distinguished fellow at Rice University, served as the eighth president of Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU, from 2017 until 2023. And from 2001 to 2012, she served as the 18th president of Brown University, where she was the first Black president of an Ivy League institution. In closing, Simmons said: “Education makes possible the smoothing out of the unequal circumstances into which many are born. Educators are therefore on the front lines in ensuring that this democracy endures because we are optimistic enough, brave enough and wise enough to create and manage a process in which the public as a whole feels well-served by our work. “And so our efforts to make plain where we stand in regard to evening out unequal circumstances are, in this moment, all-important. So, let's get about the work of making plain where we stand.”This April 18 event was sponsored by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at Berkeley. Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.UC Berkeley photo by Brandon Sánchez Mejia.
  • 195. The future of psychedelic science

    In Berkeley Talks episode 195, UC Berkeley professors discuss how and why psychedelic substances first evolved, the effects they have in the human brain and mind, and the mechanism behind their potential therapeutic role."If it's true that the therapeutic effects are in part because we're returning to this state of susceptibility, and vulnerability, and ability to learn from our environment similar to childhood," says psychology Professor Gül Dölen, "then if we just focus on the day of the trip and don't instead also focus our therapeutic efforts on those weeks after, where the critical period is presumably still open, then we're missing the opportunity to really integrate those insights that happen during the trip into the rest of the network of memories that are supporting those learned behaviors."And then the caution is that we don't want to be opening up these critical periods and then, for example, returning people to a traumatic environment or exposing them to potentially bad actors … So we want to be very careful about the way that we take care of patients after they've been in this open state of the critical period."Panelists of this March 27, 2024 event included: Imran Khan (moderator): Executive director of the Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP).Gül Dölen: Renee & U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Bob Parsons Endowed Chair in psychology, psychedelics, and neuroscience; professor in the Department of Psychology.Daniela Kaufer: Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute; associate dean of biological sciences.Noah Whiteman: Professor of integrative biology and of molecular and cell biology; faculty director of the Essig Museum of Entomology.Michael Silver: Professor in the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science and in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute; faculty director of BCSP.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.UC Berkeley photo of Daniela Kaufer.
  • 194. Sociologist Harry Edwards on sport in society (revisiting)

    In Berkeley Talks episode 194, Harry Edwards, a renowned sports activist and UC Berkeley professor emeritus of sociology, discusses the intersections of race and sport, the history of predatory inclusion, athletes’ struggle for definitional authority and the power of sport to change society.“You can change society by changing people’s perceptions and understandings of the games they play,” Edwards said at a March 2022 campus event sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) and Cal Athletics.“I’m saying whether it’s race relations in America, whether it’s relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and China, whether it’s what’s going on in South Africa with apartheid, you can leverage sport to change people’s perceptions and understandings of those relationships. Change society by changing people’s perceptions and understandings of the games they play.”This episode is from our archive. It first ran on Berkeley Talks in April 2022.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.Photo courtesy of Harry Edwards.
  • 193. Sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson on the need for 'angry optimism'

    In Berkeley Talks episode 193, science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson discusses climate change, politics and the need for "angry optimism." Robinson is the author of 22 novels, including his most recent, The Ministry for the Future, published in 2020.  "It's a fighting position — angry optimism — and you need it," he said at a UC Berkeley event in January, in conversation with English professor Katherine Snyder and Daniel Aldana Cohen, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Sociospatial Climate Collaborative. "A couple of days ago, somebody talked about The Ministry for the Future being a pedagogy of hope. And I was thinking, 'Oh, that's nice.' Not just, why should you hope? Because you need to — to stay alive and all these other reasons you need hope. But also, it's strategically useful.  "And then, how to hope in the situation that we're in, which is filled with dread and filled with people fighting with wicked strength to wreck the earth and human chances in it.  "The political battle is not going to be everybody coming together and going, 'Oh, my gosh, we’ve got a problem, let's solve it.' It's more like some people saying, 'Oh, my gosh, we’ve got a problem that we have to solve,' and other people going, 'No, we don’t have a problem.'        "They'll say that right down over the cliff. They'll be falling to their death going, 'No problem here because I'm going to heaven and you're not,' or whatever. Nobody will ever admit they're wrong. They will die. And then the next generation will have a new structure of feeling."In the meantime, how to keep your hope going, how to put it to use … I think all novels have a little of this, and then Ministry is just more explicit." This Jan. 24 event was sponsored by the Berkeley Climate Change Network and co-sponsored by Berkeley Journalism; Berkeley Center for Interdisciplinary Critical Inquiry, home to the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative; and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.Read the transcript and listen to the episode on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.
  • 192. The future of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

    In Berkeley Talks episode 192, Sarah Deer, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and a University Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas, discusses the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law passed in 1978 that aims to keep Native children in their families and communities. She also talks about the recent Supreme Court decision in Brackeen v. Haaland, which upheld ICWA, and explores the future of ICWA. “I want to begin by just talking about why ICWA was passed, and it has to do with a very tragic history in the United States of removing children from Native homes,” said Deer, chief justice for the Prairie Island Indian Community Court of Appeals, at a UC Berkeley event in December 2023. “This issue really became a profound harm to Native people during the boarding school era, in which the policy of the federal government was to remove children from their Native homes and send them to boarding schools, sometimes thousands of miles away. At these boarding schools, the attempt was to civilize — so-called 'civilize' — Indian children, which was really a euphemism for destroying their identity.” Later in the talk, she continued, “We still see a need for ICWA because we still see a higher percentage of Native children being placed in out-of-home care. There may be a variety of reasons for that, but it took over a century to damage the relationship between Native children and their communities.”This Dec. 8 event was sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, part of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues. Its co-sponsors were the Center for Race and Gender; Native American Student Development; and the Native American Law Student Association.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.Photo courtesy of Sarah Deer.
  • 191. Justice Sonia Sotomayor on fighting the good fight

    In Berkeley Talks episode 191, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks about getting up every morning ready to fight for what she believes in, how she finds ways to work with justices whose views differ wildly from her own and what she looks for in a clerk (hint: It’s not only brilliance).“I’m in my 44th year as a law professor,” said Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinksy, who was in discussion with Sotomayor for UC Berkeley’s annual Herma Hill Kay Memorial Lecture on Jan. 29. “I’m teaching constitutional law this semester. I have to say that I’ve never seen some of my students as discouraged as they are now about the Supreme Court and about the Constitution. What should I say to them?”“What choice do you have but to fight the good fight?” Sotomayor responded. “You can’t throw up your hands and walk away. That’s not a choice. That’s abdication. That’s giving up.“How can you look at the heroes like Thurgood Marshall, like the freedom fighters, who went to lunch counters and got beat up? To men like John Lewis, who marched over a bridge and had his head busted open? How can you look at those people and say that you’re entitled to despair? You’re not. I’m not.“Change never happens on its own. Change happens because people care about moving the arc of the universe towards justice. And it can take time, and it can take frustration.”Listen to the episode and read a transcript on Berkeley News ( by Philip Pacheco.Music by Blue Dot Sessions.Read more about Sotomayor’s lecture on Berkeley Law’s website.