September 03, 2015

Michael Hebb to present Glassman lecture

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. – When he’s in serious discussion mode, Michael Hebb prefers a dinner table. However, he’ll make do with a podium for his guest appearance at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as the Michael and Nancy Glassman Distinguished Lecturer. 

The presentation, “Can the Dinner Table Transform America?” begins at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 in the Student Center Ballroom D. Admission is free. 

Hebb is a “food provocateur.” This doesn’t mean he uses food to stir up trouble, food-fight style. It means he believes in the strength of food, or more precisely, the dinner table, to change the world. 

“My work,” he said during a TedMed talk in April 2013, “is to bring people together to break bread and to spark social change.” 

Hebb believes that “how we end our lives is one of the most important conversations Americans are not having.” It’s an important discussion, he said, because of some alarming statistics, including the devastating costs of end-of-life medical care. 

“(These conversations) can’t always start with medical professionals talking to patients,” he said. “It should start with ordinary people talking… Hospitals, funeral parlors and insurance offices are really not the only places we should confront death. The proper depth of that conversation doesn’t happen when we’re intimidated and overwhelmed and sad. It happens when we are most comfortable, when our guard is down… The dinner table is absolutely the most forgiving place to have this conversation.” 

Hebb hosts high profile, media-covered dinners, sometimes with celebrities or political figures. To bring his thought-provoking place-setting to the average table, he founded, an online support system for those who want to host or attend dinners to have conversations about death, medical care, quality of life and final wishes. 

The University Honors Program sponsors Hebb’s visit to SIU. An endowment from Nancy Kreftmeyer Glassman makes the annual Michael and Nancy Glassman Distinguished Lecture possible.