MORRISTOWN, NJ - On Friday, October 11 th, Morristown welcomed former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara to speak at the 2019 Morristown Festival of Books. Held at the MAYO Performing Arts Center, opening remarks were made by Founder & Co-Chair Linda Hellstrom, “the festival is an opportunity to expand ideas, look at the
world in new ways, and for the community to come together through meaningful dialogue.”
Preet’s discussion was moderated by NBC News Correspondent Katy Tur, author of Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History.
Before Bhara and Tur came out on stage, the winners of the 2019 Teen Poetry Contest were announced. Students Elizabeth Maloney, Zoe Baumann, and Paul Tsien won first, second, and third place respectively out of forty-three submissions. Additionally, honorable mentions were given to Sabrina Robinson, Emma Chan, and Peter Hong. The contest was sponsored by the Gunzler family in memory of John Gunzler.
The discussion centered around Bharara’s New York Times bestseller Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s
Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law. His book not only gives an overview of the justice system; but, describes the cases of “extraordinary people” who in the face of terrible circumstances persist because they want to help others. While Bharara's lessons are geared towards prosecutors, they are applicable to everyone as we’ve all been judged or judged others at some point.
One of the qualities he discussed was avoiding confirmation bias, which involves letting your preexisting beliefs affect your judgment. Confirmation bias can cause delays in the justice system as guilty people overlooked because of such attributes as youth or privilege. For example, when Bharara was in college, he believed that the Mafia was responsible for a crime when it was actually a group of young boys that he knew quite well. The experience taught Bharara “to appreciate that anyone is capable of doing anything.”
Bharara concluded by answering a series of questions, which were submitted online. When asked about who he trusted for news, Bharara shared that he followed multiple sources from different points of view. By listening to those that he disagrees with, Preet learns to understand their biases, which helps him strengthen his arguments. In response to whether or not the current political landscape will be a blip in American history, Preet feels that it’ll only be a blip if our current President Donald Trump isn’t reelected.
The all-day, free Main Festival takes place on Saturday, October 12 th . More than 50 award-winning and best-selling authors will speak and answer questions at five locales, all within walking distance of each other along South Street in historic Morristown, including St. Peter’s Church Sanctuary and Parish House, The Presbyterian Church Parish House, The Church of the Redeemer, and the Morristown/Morris Township Library. Book sales and signings will occur at a tent on the grounds of the historic Vail Mansion.
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