The Power of Story: A Conversation about the Death Penalty
Governor Jay Inslee brought the issue of capital punishment to the forefront in our state in February of this year when he announced a moratorium on executions and called on us to join the national debate about the death penalty. Now Humanities Washington is responding to the governor’s call by offering, through its 2015-16 Speakers Bureau, a presentation that will engage people in conversations aimed at promoting the kind of cultural and political change the WCADP is seeking. In the session, author, educator and activist Dorothy Van Soest will facilitate interactive group dialogues that demonstrate the multi-faceted impact of the death penalty through the weaving together of personal connections, creative storytelling, real life experiences and scientific research.
The conversations will be grounded in the idea that changes in the law are most often the expression of a shift in the culture (i.e., what we consider normal and acceptable) rather than the other way around and that how we communicate either promotes or inhibits the kind of shift in our collective way of thinking that will eventually make the abolishment of capital punishment possible. Stories that engage our humanity, are a source of empathy and connection, and speak to our deepest values are a powerful way to change the cultural landscape. Thus, through the voices of personal experience and excerpts from novels, creative nonfiction, and memoir, stories will be shared in the sessions about how different people—e.g., victims and their loved ones, convicted murderers and their loved ones, innocent persons condemned to death row and their loved ones, exonerated prisoners, death row guards, prison wardens and chaplains, policy-makers—are impacted by the death penalty in different ways and how telling our own stories and listening to the stories of others influences the way we think about the death penalty.
More information about The Power of Story: A Conversation about the Death Penalty can be found at and about the presenter at If you’re interested in booking a session, you can email or call the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau program manager, Zaki Abdelhamid, to determine your organization’s eligibility: or 206-682-1770 x102.