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CHAUTAUQUA: Innocence lost following attack

In the hours immediately following author and speaker Salman Rushdie was stabbed at Chautauqua Institution, the only thing we know for sure is Chautauqua Institution will never be the same.

Not after this. Not after a man walked through the gates as millions have done for more than a century and then done what no one has done in the institution’s 148-year history and commit an act of malice against the day’s featured speaker.

The Institution, originally the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, was founded in 1874 as an educational experiment in out-of-school, vacation learning. It has blossomed in the years since to encompass the arts, popular entertainment, literature and, of course, its unmatched morning lecture series. It was during the latest morning lecture, which was to feature Rushdie and Henry Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum, discussing the Week Seven theme of “More than Shelter.” The pair were to discuss the United States as a place of asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.

The discussion never happened.

Things will change at Chautauqua. Security will be tighter. The gates will likely be less open. There will be a greater law enforcement presence, particularly during any discussion that may be considered controversial. Even worse, the gates at Chautauqua had always seemed to keep the discord so prevalent in the rest of the world outside of Chautauqua. The institution has existed for decades in its own bubble.

That bubble has burst. Chautauqua will never be the same after this. But we hope Chautauqua Institution officials — and those noted academics, politicians, public servants and others who grace the Amphitheater stage every summer — are undeterred by Friday’s attack. Chautauqua Institution will never be the same as it has always been, but the Chautauqua spirit must live on.

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