Psychologist Steven Pinker, Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam, actress Elizabeth McGovern, and YouTube workout star Joe Wicks are among the speakers for the Oxford Union’s Hilary 2021 termcard

Steven Pinker is one of the world’s leading experts on language and mind. His popular books include How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought. Time named him  one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”

Roger Hallam is the co-founder of the high profile environmental action movement Extinction Rebellion. The controversial figure has seen criticism for his advocacy of civil disobedience methods and has been arrested and jailed for his role in protests.

Elizabeth McGovern is an American actress and musician who has garnered Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her role in Downton Abbey and an Academy Award nomination for Ragtime.

Wicks is a prominent fitness coach, TV presenter, and author. During the COVID-19 pandemic, his ‘PE with Joe’ sessions were an instant hit across the nation, drawing in over 70 million viewers during the first lockdown. All the money generated from YouTube ads was donated to NHS Charities Together.

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Other speakers currently include historian Ramachandra Guha, women’s rights activist Nimco Ali, Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps, South African born interior designer Kelly Hoppen CBE, EU Ambassador to the UN Olof Skoog, Line of Duty actor Adrian Dunbar, President of the European Court of Human Rights Judge Robert Spano, and Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi. 

The Union will also be holding eight debates, including whether society has outgrown religion and if we should cancel ‘cancel culture’.

James Price, President of the Oxford Union, told Cherwell: “Despite a tumultuous time with changing conditions, we are proud to put on a diverse range of events. I’m particularly excited  about our ‘Smashing silos’ series, a new set of discussions with nobel prize winners, CEOs and thought leaders to discuss a better way to study the most pressing issues of the day. I hope that members can still feel connected to the Union and the reforms that we are undertaking, even though we may be dispersed across the world right now.”

Chengkai Xie, Librarian of the Oxford Union, told Cherwell: We are living in uncertain times. Yet, in the Librarian’s office, I am proud that our committee worked hard to deliver what members rightfully expect. Additionally, I am delighted to introduce online “meet and greet”, where members can ballot to join speakers on a small zoom call to extend the conversation beyond the main webinar event… I am incredibly excited to bring a virtual film screening of 76 Days to our members following a Q&A with the film director, fulfilling my pledge to diversify Union events.”

Kesaia Toganivalu, Treasurer of the Oxford Union, told Cherwell: “This term, members can get involved with speaker meet and greets still taking place, which they can ballot for. Special thanks from me to the Sponsorship officers and Treasurer-elect for their continual hard work over the vacation, securing member discounts at many local businesses across Oxford- for those still in the city. I’m also really pushing for inter-university partnerships, such as through my work with student start-up OXEX (https://bookoxex.com) that I’m hoping to integrate into the Union (fingers crossed). And would encourage any members who feel they could have a positive effect on the Union’s first Environmental Impact Review to get in touch. In addition, I have organised a panel on whistleblowing, with former whistleblowers and industry experts that I’m sure members will find invaluable. Now, more than ever the Union should be somewhere that values honesty.”

Due to the pandemic, the Union is currently preparing for these events to be held online as in Trinity 2020. However, they are monitoring Covid-19 guidelines to adjust events accordingly – in Michaelmas 2020, some events were held in person with reduced capacity and all tickets booked in advance. 

For the first two weeks of term, the Union have set up an ‘open period’ so non-members can attend talks.

DEBATES

This house believes it is none of your business.

This house believes we are all religious.

This house believes the NHS is the envy of the world.

This house has had enough of experts.

This house would cancel ‘cancel culture.’

This house has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.

This Union would save the Union.

This House is a Roundhead, not a Cavalier.

LIST OF SPEAKERS

1st Week

Senator Harry Reid – Former US Senate Majority Leader

Steven Pinker – Experimental cognitive psychologist

Daren Acemoglu – Economist and author of Why Nations Fail

Amy Chua – Law professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

2nd Week

Hao Wu – Chinese-American film director, producer, and writer

Jon Sopel – Television presenter and correspondent for BBC World News

Judge Robert R Spano – Judge and President of the European Court of Human Rights

Ramachandra Guha – Historian and writer of India after Gandhi

3rd Week

Ambassador Olof Skoog – European Union Ambassador to the United Nations

Nimco Ali OBE – Social activist and co-founder of The Five Foundation

Katherine Parkinson – Award-winning English actress

4th Week

Joseph Nye – Political scientist and former dean of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government

Dr Anders Tegnell – State epidemiologist of Sweden

Rafael Grossi – Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Edmund Phelps – Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences

Governor Scott Walker – Former Governor of Wisconsin

5th Week

Elizabeth McGovern – Actress in Downton Abbey and past Academy Award nominee

Debra Soh – International sex researcher, neuroscientist, and columnist

6th Week

Kelly Hoppen CBE – South African born, British interior designer

Graham Allison – American political scientist and author of ‘Remaking Foreign Policy: The Organizational Connection’

Martin Tyler – English football commentator

7th Week

Roger Hallam – Environmental activist and co-founder of Extinction Rebellion

The Rt. Hon. Rory Stewart – British politician and former Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom

Joe Wicks MBE – Guinness World Record for ‘most viewers for a fitness workout live stream on YouTube’

8th Week

Matthew Elliot – Founder and former CEO of TaxPayers’ Alliance

The Rt. Hon. Lord Giddens – English sociologist, prolific author, and a Labour life peer

Senator Doug Jones – Former US Senator from Alabama

Adrian Dunbar- Lead actor in BBC One thriller ‘Line of Duty’

Image Credit: Barker Evans.