About The Polaha Chautauqua

Chautauqua comes from the Iroquois word meaning “two moccasins tied together” or “ a bag tied in the middle.” The names describe Chautauqua Lake in Southwest New York.

In the late 1800’s, spurred by naturalist philosophers like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, an educational movement erupted that aimed to give the middle class American a continuing adult education. At first, Chautauquas were stationary, almost like a camp, but soon these “camps” gave birth to the traveling Chautauquas that roamed America promoting new ideas and encouraging great thoughts. Places where people gathered to take part in activists, lectures, performances, discussions, and theater that pushed the participants towards self-improvement, both morally and intellectually, and the Chautauquas strived to give these people a sense of civic involvement and culture.

When the pandemic shut down the world, I felt compelled out of both fear and compassion to reach out to my fans, my community. I wanted to gather information, to swap stories, to encourage, and eventually to try to enlighten and inspire the folks who tuned in. What was born in March of 2020 quickly became known as the Polaha Chautauqua, a place to gather on Instagram Live for one hour a week and share stories about life during quarantine, to sing songs, read poetry, share great ideas and stay informed about the world from a personal, human perspective, from each other. My viewers become my guests. Soon friends like Tim Tebow and Rainn Wilson joined me to talk about hope in hopeless times and to send the Class of 2020 off into their bright future with words of hope and encouragement. My Good Friday Chautauqua is a particular favorite among the viewers.

The Polaha Chautauqua is a place for me to meet the people I entertain, but more than that, it’s a place for all of us to learn and grow and share our human experience.

In high school I read Zen and The Art of Motorcyle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig and in it he wrote about the idea of the chautauqua and I quote “ What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua...that's the only name I can think of for it...like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement.”

I look forward to seeing you at a Polaha Chautauqua soon.

The Polaha Chautauqua will resume weekly meetings this September on a new night.

You can join me every Sunday night at 4pm Pacific, 7pm Eatern, & 6pm central.