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America. It's a loaded word. It's geography as well as terra firma; it's history, memory, aspirations, a destination—a physical place as well as a repository of dreams and beliefs that tug at people from all over the world.

But when we at CHF say America, what do we mean?

The 2012 festival explores the many meanings of America, both at home and abroad. We debate the great American novel and celebrate jazz and the American song book, shine a spotlight on our country's visual artists and honor the American philosophical tradition. And we look at America from abroad, tracing the history of its meanings from Columbus to Kafka and locating its place in the world today. We think about the Americas and the West. And we contemplate our country's ever-increasing diversity in the context of America's history of immigration.