Bucknell Forum to Feature Five Renowned Speakers on Freedom of Expression

April 27, 2023

by Mike Ferlazzo

Bucknell Forum 2023-24 speakers (L to R): George Will, Jon A. Shields, Jodi Picoult, George M. Johnson and Jane Fonda.

Academy Award-winning actor and activist Jane Fonda, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and network political commentator George Will, and New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult will headline a group of five nationally renowned speakers Bucknell University will host to discuss the theme “Freedom of Expression” during The Bucknell Forum 2023-24 speaker series.

The 2023-24 lineup includes:

  • Bucknell Forum 2023-24 banner
    Will on Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Claremont McKenna College Professor of American Politics Jon A. Shields, author or co-author of three books on the American right, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, in Vaughan Literature Building's Trout Auditorium.
  • Picoult on Tuesday, Jan. 23, in the Weis Center.
  • New York Times bestselling author, journalist and activist George M. Johnson on Tuesday, Feb. 27, in Trout Auditorium.
  • Fonda on Tuesday, March 19, in the Weis Center.

All Bucknell Forum events begin at 7:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public, although tickets are required for Weis Center events. (See details below).

"There is no question that issues related to freedom of expression have increasingly drawn scrutiny on college and university campuses, and been the topic of great debate across the country," Bucknell President John Bravman says. "In that regard, we are proud to be providing this forum to discuss one of our most cherished American freedoms with prominent individuals who have all encountered personal freedom of expression experiences."

George Will, Sept. 19
Will is the country's most widely read political columnist, as well as its foremost conservative voice. His popular twice-weekly column for The Washington Post syndicate reaches 300 newspapers throughout the United States and Europe. He is an ABC News commentator who has been contributing to ABC's Sunday political show This Week since 1981. As one of the most respected and sought-after political commentators on the national scene, Will is a prolific author with books ranging from Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does to Bunts to One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation. In 1990, Will published Men At Work: The Craft of Baseball, which topped the New York Times bestseller list for two months. His latest baseball book, A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred, was released March 25, 2014. In June 2019, he published The Conservative Sensibility. His 16th book, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020, is his ninth collection of reflections on our culture.

Jon A. Shields, Oct. 17
Shields is a professor of American politics and chair of the government department at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author or co-author of three books on the American right: Trump’s Democrats;Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University; and The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right. His writings have also appeared in a wide range of popular outlets, including the Bulwark, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Shields teaches courses on contentious issues, such as policing, free speech and the America culture wars.

Jodi Picoult, Jan. 23
Picoult is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of 28 novels. Her books have been translated into 34 languages in 25 countries. Four novels — The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle and Salem Falls — have been made into television movies. My Sister’s Keeper was a film released from New Line Cinema, with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz starring. Small Great Things also had a film adaptation by Amblin Entertainment, starring Viola Davis and Julia Roberts. Picoult's two Young Adult novels, Between The Lines and Off The Page, co-written with her daughter Samantha Van Leer, were adapted and developed by the authors into a musical entitled Between The Lines, which played off-Broadway through September 2022. Picoult is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Awards from the Young Adult Library Services Association, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit, and the Sarah Josepha Hale Award.

George M. Johnson, Feb. 27
An award-winning Black non-binary writer, author and executive producer, Johnson is author of the New York Times bestselling Young Adult memoir All Boys Aren't Blue, which discusses adolescence growing up as a young Black Queer boy in New Jersey through a series of powerful essays. The book was optioned for television by Gabrielle Union. As a former journalist, Johnson has written for major outlets including Teen Vogue, Entertainment Tonight, NBC and Buzzfeed. In 2019, Johnson was awarded the Salute to Excellence award by the National Association of Black Journalists for the article "When Racism Anchors Your Health" in Vice Magazine. Johnson was listed as one of The Root's 100 Most Influential African Americans in 2020, Out's 100 Most Influential LGBTQ People in 2021, and in 2022 was honored as part of TIME100 Next, a list of the most influential people in the world. Their second memoir, We Are Not Broken, released in September 2021, received the Carter G. Woodson Award, which recognizes books that "accurately and sensitively depict the experience of one or more historically marginalized racial/ethnic groups in the United States."

Jane Fonda, March 19
Fonda is an American actor, activist and former fashion model. Recognized as a film icon, she is the recipient of various accolades, including two Academy Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, the Golden Lion Honorary Award, the Honorary Palme d'Or, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award. In 1982, Fonda released her first exercise video, Jane Fonda's Workout, which became the highest-selling videotape of its time. It would be the first of 22 such videos over the next 13 years, which would collectively sell over 17 million copies. Fonda was a political activist in the counterculture era during the Vietnam War. She has also protested the Iraq War and violence against women and describes herself as a feminist and environmental activist.

Event Information
All Bucknell Forum events are free and open to the public, although tickets are required for Weis Center events.

Current Bucknell students and employees may receive up to two free tickets at any campus box office location, or online, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. one day prior to the event. A valid Bucknell University ID is required to receive advance tickets. Use of multiple Bucknell IDs to pick up additional sets of tickets is prohibited.

The remaining tickets will be available for the general public at the Weis Center box office beginning at 6 p.m. on the day of the event. All individuals may receive up to two free tickets, depending on availability.

An ASL interpreter will be signing at the event for the hearing-impaired community. Attendees who need this service should contact for seating arrangements.

Questions regarding this event may be directed to the Division of Communications at 570-577-3260 or

The Bucknell Forum
Since 2007, The Bucknell Forum speaker series has featured national leaders, scholars and commentators who have examined various issues from multidisciplinary and diverse viewpoints. Past Forum speakers have included famed primatologist Jane Goodall, award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and CNN broadcast journalists and political commentators Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper, among others.