The fourth installment of the 2009-2010 convocation series at Lawrence featured essayist, historian and political journalist Rebecca Solnit on Tuesday, April 20. In her address, “Swimming Upstream in History: Hope, Disaster and Utopia,” Solnit spoke about hope that sprouts from disaster and barriers between neighbors that can disolve when there are urgent needs. The Faculty Brass Ensemble along with university organist Kathrine Handford played pieces by Bach and Charles Koechlin for the prelude. For the interlude, the selection was the third movement of “Ritual Protocol” by Kevin Puts, with Dane Richeson on marimba and Michael Mizrahi on piano. After an introduction by Provost and Dean of the Faculty David Burrows, Solnit addressed a rather small audience, the majority of whom congregated in the balcony of the Chapel. The speech opened with words from American poet Muriel Rukeyser. “The world is made up of stories, not atoms,” read Solnit. She talked about stories from Native American tribes that have taken over 514 years to tell and about how important it is to listen and to continue creating these stories. Solnit’s goal as a writer is to “stick with certain subjects for a long enough time that [she] will be able to witness change” in stories. Patience is key in this listening endeavor. “Change is not an army,” said Solnit. “It is a crab scuttling sideways – drips of water wearing away stones.” Though change is slow, however, its direction is not inevitable. Solnit proved this idea with examples of large-scale changes that were started by a small number of people, using Mahatma Gandhi as a prime example. Her political writing epitomizes this belief that small acts can make great impacts on the story of history. Solnit’s political essays can be found on TomDispatch.com and in Harper’s Magazine, and her 12 published books contain memoirs and essays on geography, the environment and spatial interactions. Carolyn Armstrong and Stephen Anunson, two Lawrence seniors who are currently collecting stories, music and images from Haiti to create an independent feature- length documentary through Bel Son Productions, were able to meet with Solnit for a private interview during her visit. Since a large portion of their documentary is taking place around Haiti’s musical culture, Armstrong and Anunson asked Solnit about what she conceived the role of music to be in communities that faced disaster. “She, too, saw that music can be a sort of social leveler, a way to look past the social constructs we place around ourselves and to help us realize a common humanity,” stated Anunson after the interview. Aside from this interview, Solnit also attended a luncheon with a group of students in the Kraemer Conference Room and an hour-long question and answer session in the Warch Campus Center Cinema. The fifth installment of the Convocation Series will take place Thursday, May 20 with Vermont State Senator Robert Hartwell ’69, who will be giving a speech titled “America at the Crossroads: Accepting the Climate Change Challenge.