“Strengthen Global Democracy by Improving Your Own Democratic Leadership”

Protesters outside the United States Capitol with US flag on January 6, 2021 Image: Tyler Merbler (https://www.flickr.com/photos/37527185@N05/50812356151/)

The world has seen in recent years an alarming rise in anti-democratic leadership in the form of the intimidation of the media, voter suppression, anti-intellectualism, and authoritarian leaders who use fear and hatred to stoke division. This rise has often been made possible by means of the very tools of democracy, including, social media, public assembly, and free speech (see the reports of Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, and the Democracy Project by the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania).

The International Camp for Democratic Leadership (ICDL) seeks to promote democratic leadership by bringing together a community of college-aged students, educators, and democratically-minded professionals into a workshop environment, in order to cultivate the behaviors, relationships, and organizational outlook necessary for promoting democratic leadership at all levels of society, from online communities to the highest levels of government. This year’s camp will take place online with the anticipation that we will have sequel to the camp next summer in Rethymno, Crete, a city famous for its local food culture and a history stretching back to the Minoan Period (c.3000 BCE).

Registration for the ICDL is now open

The fee for those who register between April 1 – April 30 is $125
The fee for those who register between May 1 – May 31 is $160
Scholarship opportunities are available for those who would like to participate in the camp but who feel that the registration fee would pose a prohibitive financial burden.

Register here and please direct questions to connect@kallion.org

If you would like to be considered for a financial aid scholarship to participate in the camp please click this link.

What you can expect to get out of the camp

Participants in ICDL can expect the following: 

  • to acquire a better appreciation for how the humanities can inform democratic leadership and governance
  • to identify democratic behaviors you want to cultivate and some un-democratic behaviors to phase out
  • to reconsider your values in light of what you hope to accomplish for others
  • to enjoy the time, space, and fellowship to discuss and reflect on major leadership decisions
  • to build relationships with like-minded participants of different ages and backgrounds

Structure of the program

  • The ICDL will be take place at online via Zoom from July 1 – July 8.
  • Ten facilitators with expertise from education, academia, and the nonprofit world will lead more than 23 unique workshops.
  • 90-minute workshops will be held each day in three different time slots (9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m., and 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time ).
  • Participants will have the opportunity to work with each facilitator at least once.
  • The registration fee includes access to all workshops, a copy of the Kallion Leadership Sketchbook, a copy of the program guide, and a certificate of participation for participants who attend at least eight workshops.

What is Democratic Leadership?

The ICDL understands Democratic Leadership to include democratic statecraft but also any leadership that has as its goal the activation and inclusion of the character, talents, and perspectives of all members of a community. These communities might be, for example, students in a classroom, employees at a for-profit or non-profit company, the members of a social club, or players on any kind of team. Democratic leadership may also include participation in and promotion of the procedures and institutions that serve this goal of activating individual potential.

An Indian Muslim woman displays indelible ink mark on her finger after her casting at a polling station, Bengali Tola Inter college in Varanasi, India, May 19, 2019.
Image: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

What happens in the workshops?

The core of the ICDL is the series of 90-minute workshops. These workshops will be led by facilitators and informed by the participants’ own engagement with various works in the humanities, including literature, drama, philosophy, biography, archaeology, rhetoric, design, linguistics, and the arts. Workshops will include some presentation from the facilitators (see below), but will focus mostly on participation from the members of the camp. This participation may include writing exercises, discussion, testimonial, and performance. The ICDL thrives on active participation from all members of the community, which is multi-generational and inclusive of students as well as professionals and retirees who are interested in cultivating and promoting democratic leadership. For example, college student will have the opportunity to talk to a professional about careers that promote democratic leadership. A retired person will have a chance to share the life experiences that informed their appreciation of democracy.

All members may foster the their development of democratic leadership in the following ways:

  1. By acquiring ​knowledge​ and ​appreciation​ of what democratic leadership is and what the institutions and mechanisms of democratic leadership are. These institutions and mechanisms may include, for example, contested elections, constitutions that guarantee certain rights, social media, and public education.
  2. By practicing the ​behaviors​ that are commonly associated with democratic leadership, for example, speaking up effectively about a problem facing the community (including practice in rhetoric and self-presentation), civil discourse, combating ignorance, activating the best within others (through education, encouragement, and highlighting opportunities) and avoiding dehumanization, organizing, perspective taking, self-regulation, understanding and advocating for human rights, and building collaborative teams.
  3. By deciding on courses of study, majors, and careers (for example, in journalism, law, academia, public policy, politics, or non-profit organizations) that are associated with democratic leadership, as well as joining or forming organizations that promote democratic leadership.
  4. By forming ​relationships ​and ​partnerships​ with others that promote democratic leadership and healthy collaboration among all participants.
  5. By building a ​reputation​ for democratic leadership through one’s stated goals, behavior, training, accomplishments, and certification.

Learn about the Facilitators and

Their Workshops

Jeff Beneker, Professor of Classics and Faculty Director of the Chadbourne Residential College, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Storytelling and Public Life

How do public figures “control the narrative” to shape their images, advance their careers, and establish their legacies? We will study the role of storytelling (in various forms) in the career of US Senator John McCain, with the aim of becoming critical readers of the stories that surround us.

How to Be a Leader

Does a manual for good democratic leadership exist? In this workshop we explore three essays written by the Greek philosopher and biographer Plutarch of Chaeronea (first-second century AD), all of which aim to instruct readers about the nature of moral and effective democratic leadership. We’ll read critically, to see what we can apply to modern society, but also to understand what Plutarch gets wrong and why.

Ashleigh Coren Women’s History Content and Interpretation Curator, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

The Teachings of Vanity

How can studying the vanity of public figures help aspiring leaders understand the value of critical reflection? In this workshop we will analyze the story behind two political cartoons of President Lyndon B. Johnson and discuss the intersections between vanity and gender as they pertain to leadership.

Gender, Identity, and Power

Explore the concept of intersectionality through a discussion of portraiture and the rhetoric of extraordinary women leaders in history. Using the elements of portrayal—visual clues found in portraits—we will practice reading portraits and analyze how visual culture can help us approach current unique challenges in our communities.

John Esposito, Software Architect, 6st Technologies

Control or Create

In this workshop we examine how good democratic leadership also demands exercise of creative activity, with intrinsic obligation toward immediate objects (human or not) and relevant skills, not simply control over humans (e.g. voting or official public service).

Conflict Resolution: Contradictions in the Good

In this workshop we consider five ‘levels’ of conflict (unreal, soluble, educatable, irreducible, unknowable) and propose ways to approach understanding contradictions in the good from political, logical, rhetorical, and metaphysical perspectives.

Character and Mimesis: Leading by Virtuous Example

The ‘cybernetic’ metaphor of ship of state, wherein the good governor (kybernetes, steersman) directs laterally the entity that moves progressively of its own accord, encodes the leader solely in terms of their effects. But much leadership is not ‘steer’ but rather ‘pull’, as people are drawn along the path the leader blazes, often due in part to the leader’s perceived subjectivity. The difference between ‘attract toward me’ and ‘attract toward the things I see as good’ is difficult to see from the outside; the ‘pulling’ leader themselves is therefore primarily responsible for accepting charisma while rejecting adoration. In this workshop we contemplate the distinction between embodying and constituting the good, and offer exercises to help the democratic leader empower and educate others by virtuous example rather than either self-glorification (including under cynical martyr’s erasure) or command.

James Henderson Collins Senior Lecturer in Ancient Greek Language, Department of Classics and Ancient History, The University of Sydney Associate for Civic and Philosophical Engagement, The Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University

The “Leaders” of the Dance

Aristotle notes that the skills of the leader of a singing and dancing chorus are not the same as those who follow, and yet no one who would perform louder or more beautifully would be allowed to join (Politics III). The experience of chorus members, whether leaders or followers, as they trained to move together in time must have been of great reverence and fellow-feeling. In this workshop, we will use the songs of dramatic choruses to think about and experience inconspicuous kinds of leadership.

Playing the Tyrant

Ancient Greek theater often staged the signs and consequences of leadership going profoundly wrong. Some communities thought it critical that citizens watch and perform reactions to tyranny, whether as spectators in the theater, young members of the chorus joining in the staged action, or in venues where set pieces of villainy might be reperformed. In this workshop, we will explore how ancient critics theorized the effects of enacting tyrannical behavior, and we will theorize the effects ourselves through dramatic performance of leaders behaving badly.

Malliron Hodge Education Innovation Consulting LLC

Creative Inclusivity

What does the sport of roller derby and inclusivity have in common? Creativity. We will use examples from the sport of roller derby to unpack how we might use radical creativity to provide opportunities for those within our community, particularly the most marginalized, to drive change.

Scarlett Kingsley Assistant Professor of Classics Agnes Scott College

Democratic Agency, Freedom, and Utopian World-building

In this workshop, we will consider the rejection of individual democratic subjectivity and its pluralist reimagination by examining an ancient utopian comedy by Aristophanes, the Assemblywomen (391 BCE).

From Political Polarization to Reconciliation

The aim of this workshop will be to consider two key inflection points of political disorder and social collapse in Athenian history, in 411 and 403 BCE. In both of these moments, the Athenian populace was presented with the set of problems associated with reintegrating a citizen body into a political unity, even as it was bitterly divided.

Let’s Kill Caesar (and Then Bury Him)

Rhonda Knight, Professor of English, John Wayne Lemke Chair in College Service and Leadership Coker University

This workshop will examine a portion of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar through some active learning activities. You will participate in an activity that will let you practice problem-solving, active-listening and other leadership skills. Then you will learn about crowd and mob mentalities as you listen to the speeches that Antony and Brutus give at Caesar’s funeral. Come join the mob!

Jason’s Journey to Leadership and the Golden Fleece

This workshop will examine emotional intelligence by looking at specific sections of Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica (usually called Jason and the Argonauts). You will see how Jason practices his skills and can think about how to use your own emotional intelligence skills to develop your own leadership. 

John Lombardini Weingartner Associate Professor of Government Affiliate Faculty in Classical Studies Director, Civic Agency Project The College of William & Mary

Don’t Become Caesarified!

Why should we put up with others with whom we disagree?  And how do we cultivate the virtues that enable us to endure the pain of disagreement?  This workshop will explore the lessons that ancient Stoicism can offer for conceptualizing, and problematizing, the idea of tolerance.

The Authority to Lead

This workshop will explore  problems of democratic leadership through a selected reading of Jeffrey Stout’s Blessed Are the Organized, which develops a concept of democratic leadership through an examination of the organizing practices of the Industrial Areas Foundation. 

Valia Loutrianaki Associate Faculty MA “Rhetoric, Humanities, and Education” University of Athens President of the Hellenic Association for the Promotion of Rhetoric in Education

Creativity and Imagination in Democratic Education

Lateral thinking, problem solving and creative thinking techniques for teams can empower common efforts and give a positive feeling of co-creating change for the better. In this workshop we will work in teams and try to think how we could solve in different ways serious social problems of our time.

Promoting Democracy through Public Speaking and Thinking

A public speaker is, among others, a person committed in sharing feelings and ideas, trying to inspire others to unite under one purpose. Participants of this workshop will look into famous speeches and try to decode the secrets of Rhetoric, specifically those connected with the triptych of Ethos, Pathos, Logos. A final presentation of TED Format speeches will be prepared and delivered in a live event.

Designing  educational programs for active citizenship

How can we prepare, educate, empower active citizens? What are the life skills everyone should acquire as student and what can be a life-time process of self development in citizenship? In this workshop we will design, using all team members’ experiences and  ideas, a program of education for and through democracy and share it with the European Democratic Education Community-Greece.

Mary Marin, Teacher of English, Drama and Debate MA in Lexicography, MUN Advisor, PHD in Human Rights in Education, University of Athens

Words that Hurt, Words that Smile

This experiential workshop aims at combating hate speech through human rights education. Participants discuss the issue of verbal violence, identify the psycho-emotional and social factors that trigger such behaviors, practice verbal violence management strategies and become familiar with alternative “Smiling words” to define diversity with respect for the particularity of the Other.

Human Rights Court

A Mock Trial workshop where participants, inspired by Speak Truth To Power movement, bring much-needed attention to continuing abuses: we will experience the capacity of each individual to create change, by playing out a real case that came before the European Court of Human Rights. 

Irene Morrison-Moncure, Associate Faculty,  Gallatin School of Individualized Study New York University

Democracy on Trial (Ancient Drama)

Through a selected reading of Aeschylus’ Eumenides and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar this workshop will explore how theatre can promote and problematize aspects of democratic leadership.

Democracy on Trial (Modern Drama)

Through a selected reading of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s Inherit the Wind this workshop will examine how dramatic works can reflect the successes and shortcomings of a collaborative and participatory government.

Motivations to Lead

Why might someone go above and beyond to promote democratic ideas of equality? And do these motivations even matter, or only the end result? This workshop will interrogate the varied motivations behind Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Kennedy’s 1963 televised address on the topic of Civil Rights in America. 

Irene Theodoropoulou Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics and Discourse Analysis Qatar University

Democratic Leadership is Language

What kind of language do democratic leaders use? Through an analysis of speeches by American and Greek politicians we will delve into the discourses of collaboration and commitment, and we will look into the linguistic mechanics and rhetorical strategies, whereby democratic leadership is constructed linguistically. 

Democratic Leadership is Empathy

With a focus on speeches by female politicians, including Kamala Harris and Jacinda Ardern, in this workshop we will focus on the discourses of connection and improvement, which in unison form empathy, one of the cornerstones of democratic leadership. We will flesh out the sociocultural linguistic mechanisms, whereby these two women connect with their people both on and offstage.


Voters queue before casting their ballots, during elections in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 29, 2015.
Image: Theo Renaut/AP

Kallion wishes to thank the program committee for the ICDL:

-Jeff Beneker (co-chair)

-Melina Tamiolaki (co-chair)

-Julia Hark

-Valia Loutrianaki

-Irene Morrison-Moncure

-Kenthia Roberts

-Irene Theodoropoulou