The 2018 Bughouse Square Debates | Newberry

The 2018 Bughouse Square Debates

Environmental Encroachment Brass Band

Environmental Encroachment Brass Band

Kevin Coval accepting the 2017 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award

Kevin Coval accepting the 2017 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award

Darryl Holliday and Mary Wisniewski, 2017 Main Debate

Darryl Holliday and Mary Wisniewski, 2017 Main Debate

Soapbox speaker

Soapbox speaker

Ada Cheng, 2017 Dill Pickle Award Soapbox Speaker

Ada Cheng, 2017 Dill Pickle Award Soapbox Speaker

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Noon to 4 pm

Washington Square Park (aka Bughouse Square), 901 North Clark Street, across Walton from the Newberry

Free and open to the public; no registration required
Open to the Public

At a time when political polarization is intensified by the extremes of digital discourse, the Bughouse Square Debates are a public forum where people can encounter new ideas and share their own—in person!

Join the Newberry for Chicago’s favorite free speech event! Bring your loudest heckling voice, mount the open soapbox, and exercise your First Amendment rights. Take it to the park this summer! And don’t miss the Newberry Book Fair before and/or after the Debates!


Noon: Music by Environmental Encroachment

1 pm: Welcome and Introduction to Bughouse Square

1:10 pm: Presentation of the 2018 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award to Robert J. Zimmer, on behalf of the University of Chicago

1:25 pm: Performance by Genesis Academy Summer Institute Students

1:35 pm: Main Debate: Neighborhood Improvement, or Gentrification?

Urban development can mean repairing and revitalizing communities in creative ways, making them safer, more vibrant, and more prosperous. But sometimes it results in displacement of original occupants and small businesses, as rents increase and affluent outsiders move in. What is the dividing line between positive improvements and economic eviction?

2:30 pm: Soapbox Speeches

2:30 pm – Jovanie Vazquez, “Community College: An Investment Worth Growing”
2:40 pm – Rosetta McGee, “Don’t Be Afraid”
2:50 pm – Tom Tresser, “F*** off, Amazon!”
3 pm – Geoffrey Cubbage, “The Dirtiest Election in Cook County: Where Politics and Sewage Intersect”
3:10 pm – June Berveiler, “Libraries Are Still for Reading”
3:20 pm – S. Montgomery Priz, “The Republic has Failed, and Only the Queen of England Can Save Us”

2:30 pm – Joseph Kopsick, “Janus Decision Reveals Two-Faced Nature of Collective Bargaining Policy”
2:40 pm – Harrison Sherrod, “The Future is Marxist”
2:50 pm – Justin Tucker, “Let’s Give Statehood to Cook County”
3 pm – Jim Leitzel, “Casinos for Humanity”
3:10 pm – Hugh Iglarsh, “The Obama (non-)Library: A Giza for the Gullible”
3:20 pm – Linda Horwitz, “Dissent, Compromise, and Power to the People”

OPEN SOAPBOX: Come one, come all! The open soapbox will be available for airing grievances and spreading good news. Just show up and get in line! Back by popular demand, the Society of Smallness will return this year to curate the open soapbox.

YOUTH SOAPBOX: Organized by students from the GCE Lab School. Interested in speaking your mind at the Youth Soapbox? Register to speak here:

  • Youth age 25 and younger, solo or in pairs or teams, will give 3-minute lightning speeches on pressing issues
  • Speaker of Truth Awards will be presented to Edie Canter, Executive Director of the Chicago Debate Commission, and Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General, for their support of youth causes and voices.

3:30 pm: Performance Interlude while the Soapbox Judges Deliberate

  • National Youth Poet Laureate Patricia Frazier
  • Soapbox Judges: Ada Cheng, 2017 Dill Pickle Champion; Sameena Mustafa, Community Leader and Activist; and Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Associate Professor of History, Loyola University Chicago

3:45 pm: Dill Pickle Awarded to the Soapbox Champion

Food Trucks​

Information Tables

  • About two dozen local organizations and causes will set up information tables in the park, with volunteers to answer your questions. Would your organization like to be represented? Write to or call 312-255-3610.

Learn more about the history of Bughouse Square.

Supported by a grant from the Chicago Free for All Fund at the Chicago Community Trust.

Your generosity is vital in keeping the library’s programs, exhibitions, and reading rooms free and accessible to everyone. Make a donation today.

Cost and Registration Information 

Free and open to the public; no registration required