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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Our final Wednesday edition of 2020 offers some reasons to celebrate in a year that's seen a scarcity of them: the arrival of a giant panda cub, the commitment and courage of young activists, a new chapter in the enduring legacy of a seminal 20th-century choreographer, and the work of a distinguished actor who stepped into White House (at least on set).

They're among the offerings designed to make sure you continue to enjoy what you,ve come to value from Smithsonian Associates: programs and experiences that are entertaining, informative, eclectic, and insightful.

Mr. President

Josiah Bartlet's time in the Oval Office came to an end in 2006, but his influence as a modern (fictional) president lives on. On "The West Wing," Martin Sheen created an indelible portrait of a popular Democratic president trying to lead the country while in conflict with the Republican-dominated Congress. What became the hallmark of his character and the show was an emphasis on what goes on behind the scenes, the discussions and decision-making the public never sees. Join him in a Tuesday, January 19 Smithsonian Associates Streaming conversation with Ken Walsh, senior White House correspondent for US News & World Report, as he discusses his iconic role and the impact of "The West Wing" on television's depiction of government and how we view our real-life national leaders.

We can only speculate on how President Bartlet might react to our most recent election season, but perhaps he might raise a question in its aftermath: Is it possible for Americans to regain common ground? On Thursday, January 14, a frank panel conversation moderated by civility expert and Washington Post columnist Steven Petrow looks at the challenges before us, as well as some reasons to be optimistic. He's joined in the Smithsonian Associates Streaming program by Carolyn Hax, the Washington Post's advice columnist; Jamil Zaki, author of The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World; and Will Friedman, senior fellow and former president at Public Agenda, whose research suggests that we're not as hopelessly divided a nation as some think.

An Evening With Martin Sheen

Post-Election Blues: How Can Americans Regain Common Ground

A Not-So-Small Miracle

Zoo veterinarians measure and care for the giant panda cub (National Zoological Park)

The world held its breath, then rejoiced when the National Zoo's giant panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth at 22 to a healthy cub in August: At her age, the odds were not in her favor. The birth of the male cub marked several important scientific breakthroughs. Reproductive scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and zoo veterinarians performed an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian, one of her previous offspring. She is the oldest giant panda in the United States to give birth and the country's first giant panda to have a successful pregnancy using frozen semen. How was it all pulled off? Find out in a Wednesday, February 24 Smithsonian Associates Streaming program as SCBI staff scientist Pierre Comizzoli, who oversaw the artificial insemination process, and Laurie Thompson, assistant curator for giant pandas at the National Zoo, discuss the panda's birth and provide an update on his growth and development.

The cub had to wait a few months until he had a name. In late November, the National Zoo announced the one that garnered nearly 135,000 online poll votes from among four Mandarin Chinese choices. It's not surprising that baby panda Xiao Qi Ji (SHIAU-chi-ji) has a name that translates as "little miracle."

Register for the Program

Read More About Xiao Qi Ji

Young Voices for Change

More than any other time in history, youth-led movements for justice consider racial inequity as fundamental to, not separate from, their platforms for activism. In a free public program on Sunday, December 20, OnRaé Watkins, senior manager of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's teen programs, moderates a conversation with prominent youth leaders who co-founded organizations and movements that explicitly connect racism and inequality with their advocacy for policy change. Climate-justice activists Zanagee Artis and Vic Barrett join Nialah Edari and Chelsea Miller, co-founders of Freedom March NYC, to discuss their motivations, community-organizing efforts, and plans to build a more inclusive and socially conscious future. The event is part of the Smithsonian's new national initiative Race, Community and Our Shared Future, which explores how we currently understand, experience, and confront race; its impact on communities; and how that impact is shaping the nation's future.

Register for the Program

Give the Gift of Connection

Wouldn't it be enjoyable to take part in a sommelier-led wine tasting with a friend? Or have a book-club pal join you as a favorite author shares the story behind the creation of their newest novel? And perhaps this winter is the perfect time to reconnect with a craft-loving family member over a shared project. You can do that and much more when you give someone a Smithsonian Associates gift certificate. The certificate can be used toward any of the wide-ranging programs and studio arts classes offered year-round, as well as be applied to the purchase of a Smithsonian Associates membership (a great gift idea in itself). And don't forget the young people in your life. Open the doors to learning and plenty of fun with a gift certificate a parent can use to enroll them in one of the upcoming Smithsonian Virtual Winter Adventures. Gift certificates are the easiest way to wrap up the Smithsonian for the people you care about. You can do your shopping online—and be certain your gift will be a perfect fit.

Gift Certificates

The Ailey Legacy Renewed

Alvin Ailey surrounded by his company, 1978 (Photo: Jack Mitchell)

Like scores of dance companies, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has turned to streaming programming to reach its audiences, creating a new virtual season themed Ailey Forward that debuted earlier this month. But unlike those of other organizations, the online performances are offered free of charge through the end of December. In a recent NPR interview, Robert Battle, the company's artistic director, emphasized why making the programs available at no cost was particularly important this year: It marks the 60th anniversary of the premiere of Ailey's most-seen and celebrated dance, Revelations, which serves as the inspiration for one of the season's new works. Another significant moment in Ailey history took place in 2019. On World AIDS Day, December 1, which also coincided with the 30th anniversary of Alvin Ailey's death, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture made available the Jack Mitchell Photography of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Collection. More than 10,000 images from 1961 to 1994 document the choreographers, dancers, and works that shaped the company's profile on the stages of the world. Take a look at some of the stunning photos.

Read the NPR Interview

Alvin Ailey Virtual Winter Season