Submitted by The Lopez Island Library
The Lopez Island Library is partnering with the Lopez Island Family Resource Center to offer two consecutive programs intended to bring islanders together. The first program “Civil Conversation in an Angry Age” will be on Friday, March 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the Library Community Room. This will be an interactive presentation by visiting philosopher and religious studies scholar David E. Smith.
Smith’s presentation poses these questions: at what point does a conversation become a battle? Why do some opinions inflame our emotions, leading to anger, fights, and even the end of relationships? He will offer a deep look at those moments when civility breaks down. By mapping the structure of how we converse, and digging into the root causes of both civility and incivility, Smith explores how we can have meaningful, respectful conversations on notoriously difficult topics like politics, religion, and morality. In our increasingly polarized political environment, Smith provides participants with the tools needed to embark upon more thoughtful, fruitful discussions.
Smith holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Temple University. For the past decade, he has held roles as a lecturer, assistant professor, and associate professor of philosophy and religious studies. He currently teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington and is a 2019 scholar for the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau program.
The second program, also facilitated by Smith, will indirectly build upon the first. On Saturday, March 9 at 3 p.m. in the Family Resource Center’s Conference Room, there will be a film screening and community conversation about the PBS documentary, “American Creed.” The topic of the film and the subsequent discussion centers on a key question, ‘what does it mean to be American today?’ In the documentary, former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy come together from different political points of view to investigate the idea of a unifying American creed. Their spirited inquiry frames the stories throughout the film of citizen-activists striving to realize their own visions of America’s promise across deepening divides. The discussion that will follow the screening will be an opportunity for audience members to reflect upon their viewing and to respectfully discuss American ideals, and how Lopezians situate themselves within these national values.
These two programs are funded by grants from Humanities Washington and the American Library Association. Cities and towns across the country are hosting similar, facilitated community conversations with the intention of engaging Americans in reflection and dialogue about their own part in the American story, and in acting to shape that story for the better. As with all library programs, all members of the public are welcome. The discussions will be characterized by an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse. It will be conducted without partisan advocacy, be respectful of divergent views, and be without ethnic, religious, gender, or racial bias. Both programs are free. Please contact the Lopez Library with any questions. See you there!