Salon Series: When Mercy Seasons Justice with Author David Bonior
March 18, 2021
The NYU John Brademas Center hosted a dialogue with former Congressman David Bonior about his new book, When Mercy Seasons Justice. Congressman Bonior was joined in conversation with Geoff Thale, President of the Washington Office on Latin America, and moderated by Brademas Center Executive Director Lynne Brown and Advisory Council Member Ellyn Toscano.
In this moving debut novel, Congressman Bonior weaves together the fictionalized stories of Pope Francis, as he confronts the humanitarian challenge of world-wide migration, and reform of the church riddled with scandal; and a mother on a perilous journey with her young family, away from violence in Honduras toward the southern border of the United States. When Mercy Seasons Justice is a narrative of hope and resilience, the importance of individual acts of courage and conscience, and the fervent belief that women hold the key to needed reform of the Catholic Church.
This conversation took place as we are witnessing in real time developments related to the novel, as the Biden administration confronts a surge of migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America, many of whom are unaccompanied minors. This week the Catholic Church also banned the blessing by priests of same-sex unions, exacerbating the Church’s strained relationship with the LGBTQ community.
David Bonior is an internationally recognized author and politician who served as a member of Congress for 26 years. The product of a Catholic education, he attended Sacred Heart Seminary and Notre Dame High School in Detroit. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1967, David served in the United States Air Force from 1968 to 1972, while simultaneously earning his MA in history from Chapman College in Orange, California.
In Congress David was a leading voice for progressive causes, including the fight to defeat Ronald Reagan’s CIA wars in Central America. This led to his election as the Democratic Whip, the second-ranking position in his party’s leadership, which he held for eleven years until his retirement from Congress in 2002.
After leaving Congress, David was appointed University Professor of Labor Studies at Wayne State University. David and Judy Bonior have a combined family of three children and eight grandchildren. When Mercy Seasons Justice is his first work of fiction.
Lynne P. Brown, Executive Director of the John Brademas Center
Lynne P. Brown is the Executive Director of the John Brademas Center, where she works to develop the overall mission, messaging and strategic planning for the Center. Dr. Brown is also Senior Vice President for University Relations and Public Affairs. In that position, she is responsible for the University's interaction with government at all levels, outreach to the community, strategic communications, and university events. She oversees the offices of: Government and Community Affairs, Civic Engagement, University Events, Advertising and Publications, Web Communications, Media Production, and Public Affairs.
A political scientist by training, Dr. Brown received her B.A. from Smith College, where she was elected Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to receive her Ph.D. in political science from The Johns Hopkins University. At NYU, she taught a graduate seminar on the politics of higher education for twenty years.
Before coming to NYU, Dr. Brown worked on Capitol Hill for Congressman John Brademas and Congressman Thomas S. Foley during their tenures as Majority Whips in the House of Representatives.
A native New Yorker, Dr. Brown serves on a number of civic boards, including the Union Square Partnership, where she is co-chair; New York Building Congress, where she is Vice Chair, as well as Co-Chair of the Higher Education committee; and the Village Alliance business improvement district. She is a trustee emerita of Manhattan College (Riverdale, New York).
Geoff Thale, President at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Geoff Thale is the President at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas. He follows hemispheric trends as well as U.S. policy toward the region, and works with senior staff across WOLA’s multiple program areas.
Prior to assuming Presidency in the fall of 2019, Thale was WOLA’s Vice-President of Programs for 14 years working with senior staff on advocacy stratifies and program development. In 1995, he came to WOLA to work on Central America issues with a particular focus on El Salvador and Nicaragua, following issues of human rights, citizen security, and economic opportunity in the region. He also founded the Cuba program, supporting normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and facilitating dialogue between Cuban society – academics, religious leaders and others – and their counterparts in the United States and elsewhere.
During his time as Vice-President of Programs, he worked with program staff on issues related to Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, and citizen security and drug policy.
Thale has followed U.S.-Central America policy since the mid-1980s, and travels to the region several times a year. Thale has visited Cuba regularly since the mid-1990’s. He has taken multiple congressional delegations to Cuba and Central America, and has spoken and been published extensively on the region and U.S. policy issues. Prior to joining WOLA, he was the Founder and Executive Director of the El Salvador Policy Project in Washington, DC. Thale holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Wisconsin.
Ellyn Toscano, Advisory Council Member for the John Brademas Center
Ellyn Toscano is Senior Director of Programing, Partnerships and Community Engagement for NYU in Brooklyn and former Executive Director of New York University Florence, and co-founder of the NYU project on Women and Migration(s). She is the founder of La Pietra Dialogues and the founding producer of The Season, a summer arts festival in Florence, Italy. Before arriving at New York University Florence, Ms. Toscano served as Chief of Staff and Counsel to Congressman Jose Serrano of New York, was his chief policy advisor on legislative, political and media concerns and directed his work on the Appropriations Committee. Ms. Toscano also served as counsel to the New York State Assembly Committee on Education for nine years. She is a member of the Board of the Harbor Conservancy, New York, Honorary Board of the Museo Marino Marini in Florence, Italy; the Advisory Board of the John Brademas Center, New York; the Italian Advisory Council of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Umbertide, Italy; and the Comitato Promotore of the Festival degli Scrittori and the Premio Gregor von Rezzori, Santa Maddalena Foundation, Donnini, Italy. Previously, she served on the boards of The Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (as the representative of the Brooklyn Borough President), and on the board of trustees of the International School of Florence, Italy. A lawyer by training, Ms. Toscano earned an LLM in International Law from New York University School of Law.
The NYU Washington, DC Salon Series: Conversations with Writers & Artists presents an opportunity for the NYU and Washington, DC community to meet and engage in dialogue with acclaimed writers and artists as they reflect on their craft. This program provides facilitated conversations that aim to illuminate the guests’ creative processes, discuss their current works, and explain the impact of their work on the world around us. The Salon Series is made possible by NYU Washington, DC through the collaboration of NYU schools, departments and centers, as well as through special relationships with selected external organizations.