George Lakey, Quaker Activist, to speak on Polarization

Activist George Lakey with Ella, age 10.
Activist George Lakey with Ella, age 10. (Contributed)

George Lakey, sociologist, Quaker, and former Swarthmore professor, will speak on “How to Move Forward in Polarized Times” on Sunday, March 17 at 9:45 a.m.

Lakey retired from Swarthmore College where he was Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Issues in Social Change. He created and managed the Global Nonviolent Action Database research project ( that includes more than 1,400 campaigns from nearly 200 countries. Lakey was the lead teacher in the 1960s Martin Luther King School of Social Change, which gave an M.A. in Social Change. 

Lakey has held teaching posts in peace and conflict studies at Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania and has lectured widely at universities in the U.S. and abroad. He has also led over 1500 social change workshops on five continents, co-founding and for fifteen years directing Training for Change. 

In 2010 Lakey was named “Peace Educator of the Year” and published his book on adult education, “Facilitating Group Learning” (PM Press). Each of his previous ten books has been about change and how to get it, including “Viking Economics” (Melville House, 2016) and “How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct-Action Campaigning” (Melville House, 2018). His new book, a memoir, is “Dancing with History: A Life for Peace and Justice,” from Seven Stories Press. 

First arrested in a nonviolent civil rights sit-in, George Lakey continued to support movements including those of LGBTQ and labor. He served as an unarmed bodyguard for human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, and recently walked 200 miles in a successful Quaker direct action campaign against mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. He has received the Martin Luther King, Jr., Peace Award, the Paul Robeson Social Justice Award, the Ashley Montague International Conflict Resolution Award, and the Giraffe Award for “Sticking his Neck out for the Common Good.”

Lakey is a member of Central Philadelphia Quaker Meeting, a gay man with four great-grandchildren, and plays Broadway tunes for sing-alongs.

Newtown Friends Meeting co-founded by “Peaceable Kingdom” painter and Quaker minister, Edward Hicks, in 1815, is open to all who wish to attend. Regular First Day Education classes (Sunday School) for all ages begin at 9:45 a.m. and Meeting for Worship begins at 11 a.m. Childcare is provided.

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