These days, many of our public and private conversations and exchanges take place over texts and tweets. But local attorney Diane Leigh Davison believes there is still a place for live discourse in our culture.

With Claudine Davison and Eve Vogelstein, she is the co-founder of Great Talk Inc., a local nonprofit formed in 2016 to bring journalists, authors, politicians, chefs and others to Baltimore for lively and intellectually stimulating public conversations.

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” will appear as a panelist with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. at the first Great Talk presentation of the season on March 17 at Loyola University Maryland. (Handout photo)

Headliners and moderators for the 2019 season of Great Talk gatherings – which begins March 17 and runs through the fall at various locations – include Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball”; former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.; physician and former Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-11th) and “PBS NewsHour” correspondent Lisa Desjardins. (Morhaim serves as a consultant for Great Talk.)

Founder of the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival and former assistant director of arts and culture for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, Claudine Davison is Great Talk’s executive director. Vogelstein serves as the organization’s board president.

Jmore recently spoke with Diane Leigh Davison, vice president of Great Talk, about the series and its mission.

What’s the goal of Great Talk? 

Our objective is to address a variety of topical and burning issues for Marylanders. This season’s topics include the 2020 [presidential] elections, the newly found medical benefits of psychedelics, art and food values in our lives, and our great city of Baltimore itself. Our nonprofit’s mission is to offer “conversation with a purpose.”

How were these speakers selected for the second season?

In order to create a constructive, balanced and enriching conversation, all panels consist of the best possible experts in their fields for each event. Most have some connection to Maryland.

Speaker suggestions come from our entire team of officers, board members and consultants. As a fledgling nonprofit, we do not have the funds to pay for any speakers or moderators, so we are grateful that all have agreed to participate for no fee, stipend or payment for expenses.

And the moderators?

Great Talk moderators are often journalism professionals or related experts with vast knowledge, expansive interest and great speaking abilities on a wide range of subjects and issues. Of course, we also look for charismatic personalities and intellectual curiosity in our choice of moderators.

How is this series different from others? 

Great Talk is not a speaker series but an innovative series of conversations. The talks are structured to bring people together from across the region to participate in live and captivating discussions with noted panelists, and with each other.

Part of our mission is to make our ticket prices low so that both individual talks and season subscriptions are more affordable than many other area options.

Does this series have a particular appeal to the Jewish community? 

The Great Talk mission for social concern, imparting knowledge and fostering open and interactive dialogue is where it shares common intrinsic Jewish values of betterment, intellectual curiosity, legendary questioning and active participation in communal affairs. 

Takeaways attendees can expect? 

As was the case with our inaugural season last year, we expect attendees to find these conversations not just fascinating and stimulating but downright pleasurable. We received a great amount of positive feedback about how much people enjoyed the Great Talk last season, how they found them to be educational and engaging, and also how much they found that these panel conversations — rather than lectures or presentations — were more interesting.

People appreciate sharing ideas with prestigious personalities and with each other at our after-talk receptions with all the panel members.

This season’s first Great Talk will be a discussion on the 2020 presidential election at the Andrew White Student Center of Loyola University Maryland, 4501 North Charles St., on March 17 at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, visit 

Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.