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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Gladwell at Bryan Series

Karlen Lambert/Guilfordian
Malcolm Gladwell spoke in his Bryan Series talk on April 12

Respect, fairness and trustworthiness.

These are the three “notions of legitimacy” that best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell spoke about in his Bryan Series talk on April 12.

As the last speaker for the 2015-16 season of the Bryan Series, Gladwell attracted a diverse audience of subscribers, students and community members.

Throughout his talk at the Greensboro Coliseum, Gladwell focused on the idea that rebellion occurs when authority lacks legitimacy.

To convey this idea, he told the story of Alva Vanderbilt, an early 20th century women’s rights activist.

Gladwell explained to the audience that Vanderbilt was a rebellious figure. She challenged the social norms of her time by divorcing her husband and later advocating for women’s suffrage.

“The fact that (Vanderbilt’s story) was sort of unknown … made it more interesting,” said Early College junior Mishek Thapa.

To further illustrate his message, Gladwell incorporated other figures of rebellion like the Greensboro Four, who challenged segregation at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, and those who protested more recently in Ferguson, Mo.

“(The stories) were fundamental to his argument,” Thapa said.

Before the 7:30 p.m. talk, Gladwell and Guilford College students interacted during an afternoon Q&A session in the Community Center.

“I think that the students got a lot out of … the student session this time,” said Anna Kelly, sophomore and student intern for the Bryan Series. “Malcolm was really good about taking a question, answering it and then moving on and hitting as many questions as he could.”

The questions ranged from those about Gladwell’s writing routine to those about what he is doing next.

In response to a question about his writing routine, Gladwell explained to students that he writes a set amount of words at regular time each day. He also mentioned that he is working on an upcoming podcast.

Ty Buckner, associate vice president for the Bryan Series and advancement communications, commented on the student session.

“We’re always excited to have the students who … really want to be there and really want to engage with the speaker and always ask great questions,” said Buckner. “(Gladwell) said, ‘they asked excellent questions.’ He was very impressed, I think.”

Many responded positively to Gladwell’s visit.

“On stage, … I thought he was great,” said Suzanne Ingram, associate director of the Bryan Series. “It seemed to be very well received by the audience, and … personally, I loved … his talk and the Q&A.”

Sophomore Rosie Magura attended both the student session and the talk at the coliseum.

“(The student session) seemed like it was a more personal event because it was smaller (in) size and also more audience-led,” said Magura. “With his speaking, one of the great strengths was (that) he was good at incorporating humor.”

Buckner, who hosted an additional Q&A session after the evening talk with previously submitted questions, said, “Not all writers are particularly good speakers, and he’s in the category of one who is.”

In the evening Q&A session, Gladwell provided his opinion on a wide variety of topics, including the current presidential election, college endowments and the debate over safety in football.

A book signing followed.

Community member Sarah Shoffner offered her impressions of the event and the Bryan Series in general.

“The Bryan Series (events) have always been very exciting, very interesting and this one is a particular highlight,” said Shoffner. “(It was) a good way to end a wonderful season.”

For the 2016-17 season, which begins on Sept. 30, the Bryan Series will feature Michael Pollan, Mark and Scott Kelly, Amal Clooney, Bryan Stevenson and Alan Alda.

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Kathryn Long, Staff Writer

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