Summer on the Vineyard is a busy place, and Dr. Bruce Eckman, chair of the Summer Institute speaker series, knows it.

“This Island is so rich with programs and talks, but I have to say that this is the premier venue because the level of programs is of such high quality,” he said. “We get people who are the best in their field.

“What we do is interesting and provocative because people get to learn about something ahead of time,” he continued. “It’s exciting. Often it is a very inside Washington angle.”

On Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. the Summer Institute kicks off the season with Steve Levitsky, author of How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future, taking the stage at the Hebrew Center. The event is already sold out.

“We’ve picked How Democracies Die because it’s a timely topic, but it isn’t, oh me, oh my, what do we do? It takes live examples on a world level, to see presidents as mechanisms.”

Next up, on July 18, is Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama.

The line up is not entirely Washington, D.C. players, though. Mr. Eckman says this broadening appeal is intentional. Last year Dr. Ruth Faden, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, lectured on greenhouse gases, eating meat and meat alternatives.

“For that event, so many farmers were interested, and it really widened the reach in the community,” he said. “Some stayed on to become sponsors.”

Mr. Eckman estimates that about 150 people are season sponsors, who each pay a fee to attend all the lectures, as well as Friday brunches at sponsors' homes. All other attendees purchase tickets per event.

Science continues to be a focus this year, with a visit from Dr. George Church on July 25. Dr. Church is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in genome sequencing and gene editing.

On August 1 the focus shifts to arts and literature with New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik.

Due to high demand some of the August speakers will relocate from the Hebrew Center to larger venues. On August 8, Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, will discuss Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, among other issues. Congressman Schiff will speak at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown.

Jeffrey Toobin returns to the Island on August 15 to speak at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center.

“When Toobin was here before in 2012 it was Fourth of July weekend,” Mr. Eckman said. “Things were quite hot in terms of political stuff. He sold out and it was hard to get people in. This year for him we relocated to the Performing Arts Center, which has 800 or so seats.”

This is the 23rd season for the Summer Institute and Mr. Eckman is looking forward to diverse, large discussions.

“At the end of the six weeks a person should feel that they have been well informed on the issues facing our society today.”

Visit for tickets and a complete schedule, including information on the Summer Institute film series.