Monday, December 29, 2008

Forum Holiday Highlights

What happens when diverse groups of people from across the spectrum of our community get together for a little holiday merriment?

Pure magic.

Check out the photos and blog post featured on the Hartford Courant's website about The Connecticut Forum's 16th Annual Children's Holiday Party for more than 250 Hartford Elementary school children - an event made possible by the gracious support of Target Stores, the Hartford Marriott Downtown, Lincoln Financial Group Foundation, and our incomparable army of Forum volunteers.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Questions for God

Here at The Forum, we believe that the more we seek to understand different perspectives, the better we will be.

That's why before every Forum we convene task groups composed of diverse members of our community to help us develop a thoughtful discussion outline for the Forum moderator. Since Forums are live and unscripted with no speeches or prepared remarks, we do not share these discussion outlines with panelists - just the moderator. Even so, Forums are always unpredictable due to dynamics between panelists, the skill of the moderator, and questions posed by the audience.

At our first task group meeting for our upcoming Forum, God: Big Questions...Bigger Questions, featuring Rabbi Harold Kushner, Rev. Peter Gomes, and Christopher Hitchens, we talked a lot about the questions many people have about religion, faith, and God, such as:
  • What does it mean to be "spiritual" versus being "religious"? What's the difference?
  • Who/what is God? How do you define God?
  • How do we use God to make meaning? What difference does it make whether or not God exists, and how, if at all, does it affect how we live our everyday lives?
Now we'd like to hear from you!

What questions would you like to hear in a discussion about God? What topics or concepts do you think would make for a fascinating Forum with our panelists? Let us know! We welcome your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Uncertain Future of Print Journalism

By Jamie Daniel, Advancement Associate at The Forum

The Tribune Company, which owns The Hartford Courant as well as The Chicago Cubs, 10 dailies and 23 TV Stations, filed for bankruptcy yesterday in an effort to buy itself more time to either save or sell its ailing businesses. Although other papers are experiencing tough times (even newspaper giant The New York Times is talking with lenders to help repay the staggering debt it owes) The Tribune Co. has been operating in the red for so long and spreading itself so thin with outsourcing that media experts and company insiders acknowledge that it will likely be close to impossible for them to recover, even with serious overhauling.

It's hard to know exactly what this growing instability of the medium, coupled with the economic crises, means for the future of print journalism. Buyouts are encouraging some of the best, most experienced (read: highest-paid) journalists to leave their papers, and those who remain are left to deal with job insecurity and low company morale. While journalism can certainly be effective, provocative and informative through the channel of new media - where costs are lower, advertisers are more easily enticed and news feeds can be updated in real time - I still feel an early onset of nostalgia for what hasn't even been lost yet. There is something so wonderfully serendipitous about reading the newspaper and stumbling upon an unexpected gem. The physicality of spreading out the Sunday paper, swapping sections and sipping a cup of coffee just does not translate to a laptop. Is this really the end, or can papers like The Courant rally, re-energize and bounce back? I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a rebirth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Price Paid?

By Pat Rossiter, Connecticut YOUTH Forum Program Manager

It seems that times are really tough...

The state of education funding in Connecticut: Group Seeks to Avert State Education Spending Cuts

The state of education funding in California: Ads on Test Add up for Teacher

Maybe it's just me, but I feel if there is any chance for the State or for the Union, it is going to depend on the education that is provided to our kids today. I certainly understand that current economic conditions leave our elected officials with some tough decisions, but isn't it just obvious that the best "economic stimulus" action we can take is to make sure future workers are prepared to work? When teachers are left scrambling to make copies of tests by selling ad space, just what message does that give to kids? "Your education is not important enough for us to fund." "You are a commodity and access to you is more valuable than educating you."

How about here in Connecticut? Check out this Connecticut Voices for Children Report.

I do not think the state budget is swimming in pork. In fact, I know there are tremendously valuable and needed programs and services funded by the state. I'm also convinced, though, that educating our children should be last on a long list of places to cut budgets.

Friday, November 21, 2008

That's all folks!

Another great Forum has come and gone...Storytellers and the Stories They Tell gave us a chance to sit back, relax, and be entertained by some of today's most talented storytellers. Thanks for spending your time with me here at THE COLUMN!

Now its your turn...tell us your story, reactions to the evening, questions you would have liked to asked the panelists...the floor is yours!


Its intermission!

Volunteers are busy sorting through your many questions...and Founding President of the Forum Richard Sugarman and Moderator Bob Edwards are just trying to keep up! Check back here tomorrow for audience reactions to the first half!

Live from backstage! It's almost showtime!

It is almost showtime, and the panelists are busy backstage getting ready...check it out!

Suzan-Lori Parks admires the beautiful Bushnell Theater

The panelists get comfy on stage during a quick briefing

One of my personal favorite parts of The Bushnell is the back room, and the panelists seem to agree! Here the walls tell their own story of shows past, featuring the signatures of Ray Charles, Walter Cronkite, Al Franken, Carol Channing, Bernadette Peters, Robert Goulet, Tim Conway, and many more!

Let the Stories Begin!

By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate at The Connecticut Forum

We humans love a good story. Whether painted on cave walls or big screens, sung in vibrato, or written in chapter and verse, we have been compelled to share our stories in new and creative ways since the dawn of time. But why? What purpose do stories serve in our lives? And how have our stories changed through the years? It's story time at the Forum... so pull up a chair, sit back and relax, while master storytellers spin a few yarns about the art, the muse, and the magic of it all.

Welcome to the second Forum of the 2008-2009 season, Storytellers and the Stories They Tell! I am here to give you a live look at the evening, on and off stage! The Panel has arrived in Hartford, and the evening's activities are getting under way.

Tony Kushner, The Tony Award-Winning Playwright of Angels in America greets fellow panelist David Simon, creator of HBO's The Wire.

Panelists Suzan-Lori Parks, David Simon, and Tony Kushner signing autographs during the pre-Forum panelist meeting

Tony Kushner autographing books

Members of The CT YOUTH Forum met with the panelists for an intimate Q&A session during the YOUTH Forum Press Conference. The conversation ranged from the legalization of gay marriage in the state of Connecticut, to the students struggles with Shakespeare!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Go Directly To Jail...

By Pat Rossiter, Connecticut YOUTH Forum Program Manager

The ACLU has been busy in Connecticut’s schools. Two reports were released today outlining the way kids are being treated in schools.

The first, “Hard Lessons: School Resource Officer Programs and School-Based Arrests in Three Connecticut Towns,” outlines the rate of arrests of students in Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford’s schools. According to this article, the report indicates that minority students are arrested at double the rate of white students for the same offense.

In New Haven, “Zero-Tolerance” policies “…force school administrators to seek suspensions or expulsions of students even when the sanctions serve no legitimate or substantial state interest,” and “deprive students of rights to education.”

I have two thoughts. Isn’t the presence of a police officer in a school a presumption of guilt that would not be tolerated by any adult in their workplace? It certainly conjures images of “Big Brother” in my mind and, it would seem, gives a clear message to students in schools: this environment is unsafe and YOU are making it that way.

Next, nothing in my life or in any part of the world I have observed is ever black and white. “Zero-tolerance” policies are archaic and ineffective. Education of kids is not simply arithmetic, English and other academic pursuits. It is teaching children how to interact and solve conflicts and be, well adults. Where I come from, adults look at all sides of a conflict or issue and make a reasonable decision. Those are the kinds of lessons we can all learn from.

I’d love to hear comments and reactions…

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reactions from Around the World

The world responds to the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of The United States.

Monday, November 3, 2008

CT Students' Math Scores Just Above... Egypt's?

For a state that is often recognized for its high per-capita income and its "Gold Coast" towns of Greenwich and Weston, it's appalling to learn that Connecticut has the largest achievement gap between rich and poor students of any US state.

ConnCAN is a Connecticut non-profit concerned with closing the achievement gap and securing great public schools for all CT children, no matter what town they live in. Their findings are at once eye-opening and sad, but still important to any Connecticut resident or any citizen concerned with our country's education system.

Here is just some of their data, and you can find the rest at their website.

It seems there is a correlation between education levels and violence... is ending violence as simple as being better educators?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Forum Panelist Studs Terkel Passes

Friday saw the passing of one of America's great authors, activists and chroniclers of true life in the United States, Studs Terkel. Studs was a fondly remembered panelist in the 1998 Forum, "Wisdom of Sages," where he shared the stage with Gloria Steinem, Gordon Parks, and William F. Buckley. His no-nonsense approach coupled with an indefatigable willingness to stand up for what he believed in and for the people he cared about, the common man, will surely be missed. The Connecticut Forum mourns the loss of this extraordinary man.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Forum Panelist Honored as New York Public Theater's First "Master Writer"

Pulitzer Prize-winning Playwright, MacArthur Genius and our very own Storytellers panelist Suzan-Lori Parks has another impressive title to add to her collection: Master Writer Chair at New York's Public Theater.

"Suzan-Lori Parks is one of our greatest artists, and this chair will allow her the freedom to follow her unique vision wherever it might lead her. We at The Public are honored to have her as part of our family," said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis yesterday in a press release.

From today's New York Times:

The residency, which Ms. Parks assumes on Nov. 1, is a salaried three-year position that “affords writers the flexibility and freedom to pursue their artistic goals and endeavors,” according to the Public Theater. As part of the appointment, Ms. Parks will also become a visiting arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in its dramatic writing program.

Kudos to Ms. Parks! See you at The Forum!

Suzan-Lori Parks will be a featured panelist at The Connecticut Forum's "Storytellers & the Stories They Tell" on Friday, November 21. More info available at!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gay Marriage: Yes, no and maybe...

Connecticut YOUTH Forum Member Justin has something to say about the recent decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage in the state.

I am extremely thrilled that CT made this decision. For the first time in my memory, I am genuinely proud to be a resident of this state. I never really saw CT as being all that progressive, but this proved that we could be. We are ahead of the rest of the country with same-sex rights, being the third state to grant marriage privileges and one of the first to enforce civil unions.

But, however ahead we may be I am still worried. It is only a matter of time before rallies and protests occur, and people start to fight against this new-found freedom. There has already been a proposal to create a constitutional convention that would undoubtedly reform and reverse the same-sex marriage bill. I hope that it does not come into creation, but even if it doesn't there will be something else. And if that doesn't work, there will be something else. While this may be a huge success, there is still a lot of fighting to do, and quite frankly I am tired. Tired of fighting for my rights, tired of discrimination, tired of having to actually prove that I am equal. I feel like I should not have to use all this energy, and that this fight should have never existed in the first place. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is what this country was modeled after, yet the latter just isn't being fully embraced.

I am happy for Connecticut, but ashamed that the rest of the country has not come to same conclusion. 3/50 is far from good enough.

From another YOUTH Forum Member David from Granby

Have anything to say about the topic? Do I ever! ^^ And awaaaay we go.

Before anything else, the distinction needs to be made between civil union and marriage. My personal belief is that civil union should be what's recognized by the government (on any level), and marriage should be upheld by churches, communities, what have you. With this distinction made, I don't see any reason why federal or state governments should fail to give gay and straight relationships equal weight. Our government is a secular institution, no matter how hard religious or anti-religious groups might try to hijack it, and moral/religious beliefs aside, I've seen no convincing reason why a gay couple is inherently less functional than a straight one. Thus, the government should recognize civil unions for both straight and gay couples, and not get involved with what is or is not a "marriage".

That said, I also don't believe that the government has the right to interfere with churches to force acceptance of gay marriage. If religious authorities on either a parochial or higher level decide that their faith or denomination does not support or sanction gay marriage, or consider same-sex couples married, then that's their right.

As a caveat: if there is a type of relationship (e.g. between an adult and a child) with the potential for serious inherent difficulty, it *may* be appropriate for the government to deny the same rights and benefits granted to most couples. I shouldn't be able to wed a three-year-old and expect to be treated as a "married" couple. This is the point where libertarianism becomes a bit fuzzy, though, and I'm extremely hesitant to take a stand here. I believe that if there is a valid argument against legal recognition for gay couples, it likely falls into the "slippery slope" category.

I'm obviously pulling my anti-gay-marriage punches pretty hard, because I don't actually know the extent to which it would be difficult to draw the line, as many opponents of gay marriage believe it would be. It definitely bears consideration by policy makers.

Best of luck with the blog, and I hope to see you at the next Youth Forum event. (It's at my school! W00ts!)

Not everyone is so thrilled. Juliet from Madison writes:

Marriage is and always has been a union between and man and a woman. To allow gays or anyone else to appropriate marriage as an institution is not only an insult to my marriage but a dangerous slippery slope. If two men or women are allowed to marry, what is stopping anyone from marrying a beloved pet or sibling? Further, marriages are the foundation upon which families are built and children should ALWAYS be raised in a family with a mother and father.

I have nothing in particular against gays. As far as I’m concerned they are free to do what ever they want in the bedroom. That does not give them the right to threaten my or any other normal couple’s marriage.

What do you have to say? Are we at the start of a golden age of tolerance, or on the precipice of the end of civilization?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Recession Confessions

This month, NPR is airing a series of Kitchen Table Conversations, sharing the stories of everyday Americans and how they are coping with the current economic crisis.

We want to know how you are handling it. Are you spending less? What are you cutting down on? What is the one thing you will not sacrifice or skimp on despite these tough times?

Here's what a few folks had to say...

I try to buy things I'll like and keep for a while (high quality and interesting). I'd rather buy a lot less and do that, than buy things I don't like. Drew, Lexington, MA

I am spending less. I’ve stopped going to restaurants and movie theaters. I have also been cutting down on clothing purchases. I haven’t been to the mall in weeks …quite shocking frankly! I am also really nervous about the holiday season and being able to afford quality presents for friends and family. I will never give up ordering pizza. Sarah, Hartford, CT

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but I haven’t actually changed my lifestyle at all. I know people are hurting right now and that our economy is probably only going to get worse, but the reality for me is that I still consume the same amount of “stuff.” I still fill my cart at the grocery store and go out to eat a few times a week. I still buy clothes and other consumer goods. I haven’t been compelled to trade in my SUV for a Prius or turn my thermostat down to 58 degrees. Sure I’m frustrated with the increased costs of daily living, but not enough to change the way I live my life. Susan, Avon, CT

Yes, I am spending less, but not so much because of the economy. I’m cutting down on going out to bars and eating out at restaurants, but I will never give up my my DVR/HD on my TV. Chris, Burlington MA

I am spending less but this is really a function of paying for two kids in college more than the economy....even though assets we were counting on to pay for tuition have lost alot of value so we are using our savings and cutting back on vacations, going out to eat, home improvements, new cars etc......I will not cut out my wine with dinner. Vince, Hartford, CT

I almost never drive my car anymore, but this is easier for me since I live in a city. I give more money to homeless people. I see so many on the streets, and it's heartbreaking. Jerome, New Haven, CT

What about you?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Isn't Anyone Talking About This?

While it’s great that we’ve been seeing reduced numbers at the pumps these days, it’s troubling that gas prices are not being reduced at the same plummeting rate as crude oil per barrel. After all, when oil prices were rising this summer, gas prices rose steadily and accordingly.

The price of crude oil per gallon is down over 50% since July...

but the price of gas has gone from a national average of $4.11 per gallon on July 17th to a still-too-high price of $3.04. This is only a 26% decrease in price.

Someone is making money here, and it sure isn’t us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Forget About the Debates - Just Take Me Out To the Ballgame.

By Jamie Daniel, Advancement Associate at The Forum

When I want to know where my October went, I ask that you remind me of these two things: baseball and politics. They have more in common than you might realize at first. Both can as easily excite and rejuvenate you as break your heart. Both have the power to bring us together, but can just as easily be the wedge that drives us apart. Politicians and ballplayers both leave it all on the field in October. And both force us to ask the difficult questions: Which candidate can better handle these economic problems? Whose character qualifies them to be President? How will we raise the kids - Red Sox or Yankees?

As a baseball fan, the excitement of my team making the playoffs is accompanied by the expectation that I won't be getting much sleep as long as they keep winning. Add that to the sleepless nights brought on by the troubled economy, and October promises no rest for the weary.

I wonder: how does the disappointment of a political party's loss compare to the anguish of, say, a Cubs fan? After all, no major political party has been out of power for one hundred years.

It seems to me that most of America must have their political minds made up by now; I, for one, am just waiting to vote. We've been inundated with messaging from both campaigns for so long that the MLB playoffs provide more authentic, juicy conflict than the recycled storylines of the campaigns. Baseball fans this October are asking: Will Manny come back to Boston to prove himself as a Dodger? How will the perennial power of the Red Sox fare against a young, upstart team of energetic rookies like the Rays? Would anyone watch a Tampa Bay-Philadelphia World Series, or is that only the stuff of a Fox executive's worst nightmare?

I'm tired of the long campaign, and everything I hear from the candidates these days just sounds repetitive - so repetitive, that throughout the debate last night, I found myself wishing there was a game 5 somewhere to take the edge off. In comparison to this political season, baseball feels like the more pure contest, and I'm finding the crack of the bat more alluring than the twittering of pundits during these long, October nights.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Making Sense of the Bailout

By Ruth Cullen, Forum Staff

I don't know about you, but all this bailout talk is making my head spin.

It's hard enough to sift through the non-stop blather about "illiquid" this and "troubled assets" that without the added complication of spin and bias from just about everyone - and namely, politicians and pundits.

Who to trust? Where to find credible, unbiased straight talk about what the bailout is and why it's both important and urgent?

Barring the discovery of a Cliff Notes version of the 451-page Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, here's an interesting round-up of voices chiming in about the proposed bailout bill, politics, and the current state of our U.S. economy to help all of us get a clue.

From Ian Ayres' article in The New York Times...
At the end of the day, it may be necessary to get the at-risk incumbents and their challengers to agree to take this issue off the table. If McCain and Obama jointly reached out to both sides in these close races, it might be possible for both contenders for a House seat to simultaneously agree to support the package. This will not be easy. Adversaries in tight races are loathe to cooperate when there is political advantage to be had in clinging to the popular position. But the alternative is to ask some incumbent members to engage in probabilistic political suicide. Read more...
From Senator John McCain as quoted in the Los Angeles Times...
"Crises often have a way of revealing our better selves, of showing what we're made of and how much we can achieve when we're put to the test," the Arizona senator said, speaking to about 100 supporters in a cozy wood-paneled auditorium at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. "It should not require extreme emergencies, when the future of our entire economy is on the line, to bring out the best of us. . . . We are supposed to do that even in the calmest of times." Read more...
From Senator Barack Obama as quoted on Politico...
“This is not just a Wall Street crisis – it’s an American crisis, and it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan,” Obama said in a floor speech. And behind the scenes he is making phone calls to House Democrats helping to shore up that vote Friday." Read more...
From Thomas Friedman in The New York Times...
I totally understand the resentment against Wall Street titans bringing home $60 million bonuses. But when the credit system is imperiled, as it is now, you have to focus on saving the system, even if it means bailing out people who don’t deserve it. Otherwise, you’re saying: I’m going to hold my breath until that Wall Street fat cat turns blue. But he’s not going to turn blue; you are, or we all are. We have to get this right. Read more...
From George Soros in The Guardian...
"The fact that the plan was rejected in Congress provides an opportunity to amend it to make it more effective," Soros told Reuters in an interview. "The way to do it is to focus on recapitalizing the banks by injecting equity and actually encouraging existing shareholders to provide that equity." Read more...
From James Klurfeld in Newsday...
Over the years, I've always believed that no matter how cumbersome our form of government, no matter how deeply felt were our differences, in a crisis, serious people can come together and solve problems.

When I heard that the House had voted against the bailout Monday, it shook the very foundation of that belief.

It looks like the House will have another chance. For all our sakes, I hope that the serious people can prevail. Read more...

From a speech made by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, as quoted in BusinessWeek...
The "mirage" of American economic invulnerability has vanished, along with "much of the savings of thrifty and prudent men and women...We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer," he said. Read more...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Panelists Reflect Back Stage

By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate at The Connecticut Forum

After The Presidency ended on stage, things got
very busy back stage!

Check out these post-Forum reactions from some of our panelists!

Elizabeth Edwards describes her experience at The Connecticut Forum:

Matthew Dowd:

Stay tuned! More to come!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate of The Connecticut Forum

Intermission is a VERY busy time backstage...check it out!

Forum volunteers sort thru your many questions

Moderator Michel Martin prepping on the stairs for the second half

YOUTH Forum member Ornella Thompson looks on
as she prepares to welcome the crowd to the second half

Elizabeth Edwards enjoying Ornella's speech

Lights! Camera! Forum!

By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate at The Connecticut Forum

It’s official! The Presidency is underway, and along with it, the 2008-2009 season of The Connecticut Forum!

The stage, just before the panelists step out

Executive Director Doris Sugarman,
and Founding President Richard Sugarman welcome the crowd

The panel has finally made it to the stage!

Pre-Forum Cocktails and Dinner

By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate at The Connecticut Forum

I’m back!

Dinner is underway, with Forum panelists, friends, and sponsors enjoying delicious food and fueling up for the great evening ahead!

Sponsors and other friends of the Forum mingle with panelists while enjoying a few drinks

CT Forum staff members
Sandy Morrow (The Ticket Empress)
and Linda Kollmorgen (The Dinner Queen)

More to come! The panel will be hitting the stage soon!

Live! It's The Presidency!

By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate at The Connecticut Forum

Hello Forum Fans!

Tonight marks the kickoff of our exciting 2008-2009 Season with our first Forum, The Presidency. This evening our elite panel of historians and insiders will take a look at the nations highest office..where its been, and where its going.

The panel includes:

Elizabeth Edwards
, Political Insider and Inspirational Woman

Matthew Dowd, Chief Strategist of the 2004 Bush-Cheney Campaign

Joseph Ellis, Pulitzer-Prize Winning Historian and Author of Founding Brothers

Michel Martin, Host of NPR's Tell Me More will Moderate

I am here to provide you with an exclusive behind the scenes look at tonight's Forum...let's get started!

The panelists have arrived and are settling into The Connecticut Culinary Institute, where the pre-Forum cocktail and dinner are held.

First Stop? The panelist meeting room. Here the panel meets and greets each other before the evening begins, and take a few moments to sign some autographs. Take a look!

Then it is off to the press confrence where members of the media, as well as our very own YOUTH Forum members have a chance to intimately ask the panelists a few questions.

Check back here in a few minutes for clips from the press confrence, and the dish on dinner!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Connecticut YOUTH Forum: Straight Talk on Stereotypes

By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate at The Connecticut Forum

This week, over 150 students from high schools all over the state of Connecticut kicked off the school year with the first monthly meeting of The Connecticut YOUTH Forum. Students from near and far came together in the cafeteria of Avon High School to listen, talk, and connect. This month’s focus: Stereotypes.

As a relatively new employee of The Connecticut Forum, this was the first YOUTH Forum meeting I have ever attended and I did not really know what to expect. I understood that the YOUTH Forum held monthly meetings that were focused on specific topics, and that adults could participate as silent observers, but I couldn’t imagine how this would work. I mean, more than 100 teenagers in a room engaging in civil and respectful dialogue…with microphones? Was this even possible? How?

I learned. I had heard that microphones would be passed…driven with minimal facilitation from adults, and I was absolutely blown away by the conversation I witnessed. To see such a large group of teens from very diverse walks of life speaking on their own accord about such a touchy subject was amazing. I was awestruck by the rawness, intelligence, and passion in their comments.

“It’s OK the be open minded, to have an opinion, and not be afraid to say what you want to say,said Tina, a Senior at New Britian High School.

And they weren’t afraid. The conversation was broad and heartfelt, with students defining what the word stereotype meant to them, and sharing their own experiences.

The highlight of the afternoon, to me, came when Kyle, a Freshmen at Rham High School stood up and explained an experience he h

“When we first started playing (hockey) everyone in the league was white, and there was one new black kid. We all assumed that that he would be the one that we probably wouldn’t be able to trust with plays and pass the ball to. He ended up being the fastest and highest scoring kid on our team.”

This young man, standing up in front so many other students and candidly admitting his own wrong, spoke directly to the mission of The Connecticut YOUTH Forum, which is to bring youth together through discussion and action while providing opportunities for growth and exploration.

I know that have grown from the experience of participating in this meeting as a silent observer. Days later, the comments and ideas that were expressed by those teens have stuck with me, kept me thinking, and have me looking forward to the next meeting.

Read more about the CT YOUTH Forum meeting at Avon High School in the Hartford Courant blog post, "Teens Talk Stereotypes at Avon HS."

For more information on The Connecticut YOUTH Forum, and how you can get involved, visit or call (860) 509-0909 ext. 12

Monday, September 22, 2008

If These Walls Could Talk: A Forum Virtual Open House

By Jamie Daniel, Forum Advancement Associate

Forum Playbills Line the Walls

Last week we hosted an Open House at our office to kick-off our 17th Season. We had longtime friends to The Forum and newcomers alike, and everyone had a chance to peruse past playbills, have a glass of wine, talk to YOUTH Forum members and check out the pictures on the walls.

As a new employee of The Forum, this event was a chance for me to experience a bit of the buzz that surrounds Forum events and to take in some of the history of The Forum.

I see the proof of the amazing Forum history every day, but this open house gave me the chance to sit back and really think about the organization that I am now a part of and all the dynamic and interesting personalities that have come to The Forum over the years.

Walter Cronkite was here? Toni Morrison? Bill Cosby? Benazir Bhutto? Jennifer Weiner, Joyce Carol Oates and Kurt Vonnegut?

All of these amazing people came to Hartford to engage in conversation and discuss the things that are important to them? It's a lot to think about.

Here are a few pictures off the walls of our office that provide a glimpse of the Forum past and present. Enjoy!

Bucky Dent and Carlton Fisk together on stage - and laughing!

Nobel Peace Prize winners Elie Wiesel (at left), Jody Williams and Oscar Arias came to The Forum for A Nobel Evening to discuss war and peace, ironically on the very first day of the Iraq war.

In The Power of Music in 2002, Trey Anastasio (below) was totally enthralled with Nicholas Payton's trumpet tunes. Trey later invited Nicholas to perform on his next album.

Thomas Friedman naps (above) while Malcolm Gladwell thinks and twirls his hair.
So this is what happens in the Green Room back stage!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Schools Working with Community: A Radical Idea?

By Pat Rossiter, Connecticut YOUTH Forum Program Manager

This recent article from the Associated Press piqued my interest.

It seems Waterbury Public Schools, along with other Connecticut school districts, is doing something radical: Teachers and parents will be participating with each other in the management of the schools!

I have to say, I’m confused, confounded and amazed all at once. I guess I figured they had been doing this all along. In Forum-land, two heads are generally better than one and people are happier and more productive when they get to participate in the decision making.

Would it be crazy of me to suggest they talk to the kids too? OK…maybe that’s going too far.

On a slightly more inspirational note… let's hear it for this amazing kid!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Former Forum Panelists Weigh in on Palin

Leave a comment or email us at info at ctforum dot org by Wednesday, September 17 at noon EST for a chance to win two tickets to The Presidency! Good luck!

These days, it seems that everyone's talking about politics, preparedness, and Palin. (But mostly the latter.)

Here's what a few former Connecticut Forum panelists have to say...

Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
“ can disagree with some of her positions, I disagree violently with some of them, but…she is the governor of a state, you don’t get to be a governor by accident... She has balanced raising a family with public service and my hat's off to her.”
“You want to have a spirited, close race where the public really has to sit down and think what they want and who they are going to vote for. That’s good for democracy. I think she is to be congratulated. I wish her and John McCain well. And I wish Joe Biden and Barack Obama well...I hope the press focuses on the issues instead of some of the personal things that seem to have dominated the press for the last few days. It was really a shame.” Read more...
Gloria Steinem:
Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton...Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs." Read more...
Newt Gingrich:
"She is the real thing," Gingrich said. "But she is going to make mistakes, and her ability to withstand what (the media) will legitimately try to do to her" will determine "whether she is an enormous asset and game changer, or she turns out to be a liability." Read more...
Mo Rocca:
Let's face it: this is a race between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Joe Biden is dead weight - a good man, perhaps, and funny at times. But he can be downright tedious - speaking in undiagrammable sentences. And McCain is ideologically rudderless - this week a maverick, last week conservative, next week a populist - all the while nervously tugging at his fingers, hoping he can hitch a ride on the Palins' DC-bound snowmobile. Read more...
Pat Buchanan:
"...she's a terrific gal. She's a rebel, reformer..." Watch video clip...
Thomas Friedman:
With his choice of Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change, for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil. Read more...
Ann Coulter:
John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his running mate finally gave Republicans a reason to vote for him -- a reason, that is, other than B. Hussein Obama. They claimed Palin was chosen only because she's a woman. In fact, Palin was chosen because she's pro-life, pro-gun, pro-drilling and pro-tax cuts. She's fought both Republicans and Democrats on public corruption and does not have hair plugs like some other vice presidential candidate I could mention. In other words, she's a "Republican." Read more...
Alec Baldwin:
"John McCain is not George Bush, Sarah Palin is." Read more...
Peggy Noonan:
Much has been said about her speech, but a few points. “The difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick” is pure American and goes straight into Bartlett’s. This is the authentic sound of the American mama, of every mother you know at school who joins the board, reads the books, heads the committee, and gets the show on the road. These women make large portions of America work...There is something so normal about her, so “You’ve met this person before and you like her,” that she broke through in a new way, as a character vividly herself, and vividly genuine. Read more... or read/watch her unedited live comments...
James Carville:
"This is a very, very complicated world and my problem with this woman is not what kind of mother she is or not what her values's that she's just uniquely and supremely unqualified for the office of which they've selected to run for and it's kind of unfair to her." Watch the video...
Mary Matalin:
"She's new, she's fresh, she's young, people like her..." Watch the video...
Frank Rich:
"We still don’t know a lot about Palin except that she’s better at delivering a speech than McCain and that she defends her own pregnant daughter’s right to privacy even as she would have the government intrude to police the reproductive choices of all other women...Whatever we do and don’t know about Palin’s character at this point, there is no ambiguity in what her ascent tells us about McCain’s character and potential presidency..." Read more...

Friday, September 5, 2008

When We Yell at our TV, Do We Really Expect it to Answer?

The political debates have begun, the VP picks have been vetted, the thinly veiled insults have been hurled and the issues have been examined. Yup, it’s election time.

And where has the average American been through all of this? Well from what we’ve been hearing, a lot of us have been at home, yelling at our tvs and doing our part to stimulate engaging political debate.

Here’s what some Connecticut residents tell us that they have been yelling from their couches:
“People really believe this stuff?”

“Leave her daughter alone!”

“Who votes for this guy?”

“You go girl!”

“I can’t even remember what I used to watch before election coverage took over…”

“I cannot survive four years of him.”

“What’s a Palin?”

“Could their daughter BE any cuter?”

“My nightly Law & Order fix is cancelled for this?”

Regardless of which side of the political aisle you identify yourself with, we can all agree that the current presidential race has given us a lot to think about and question as the political drama unfolds. We’re just happy that people are talking – even if it’s just to their tvs!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Calling All Cake Lovers!

Latest updates from March 18, 2009 at bottom of post!

Duff Goldman, star of The Food Network's hit The Ace of Cakes has just been confirmed as a panelist for our Food for Thought Forum on May 14, 2009.

As if that wasn't news enough, Duff will be joined by Anthony Bourdain, someone who requires "No Reservations" wherever he should roam, and Alice Waters, the legendary, revolutionary chef of Chez Panisse.

Are you getting hungry yet? We are!

Updated March 18, 2009

Call us at (860) 509-0909 ext. 23 and ask about the "Ultimate Forum Experience" and other special VIP opportunities! Don't miss out! Only a few spots remaining!

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We would love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hartford Youth React to City Curfew

In the wake of a disturbingly violent weekend in Hartford, the city has instated a city wide curfew effective tonight. Any minor under the age of 18 who is not accompanied by a legal guardian after 9:00 will be issued a written warning by police, and escorted to a community center where they must be picked up by a parent.

Members of The Connecticut YOUTH Forum react:

I’m against the 9:00 curfew for the youth of Hartford. All this curfew is going to do is make people more upset and I don’t believe that it will stop or even lower the crime rate in Hartford. People will still find away to get around it. That law will probably be enforced heavily for the first couple of weeks and then die down. Some teens like me either are involved with different programs or work. What happens if somebody is on their way home from work and is involved with different programs stopped by a cop? They’re not always going to believe that kid is coming home from work, so they will end up being arrested. I’ve heard on the news that they’re allowing kids under 18 to be out past nine along they’re with their legal guardian, but they will still question the parent.
Kyron, 16 Weaver High School

In a way I think it is going to help the crime rate but 9 pm seems too early. If the curfew was at 10 or 10:30 then it would be plausible to work with.
Earl, 17, Weaver High School

I believe that the nine o’clock curfew will not help or change. It is just an harsh punishment for the youth who are not involved and have never been involved in teen violence. Out of the youth population only a small number is connected with the violence that set about the Hartford curfew. It is not fair to the children and teenagers who are not involved. It is very unlikely that the teens now associated with violence and gang relations will abide by the curfew. So the ones most deserving of this punishment will not even feel its effects. If anything the teens will rebel against such demands and stay out later doing more violent acts. As for students like me who have sporting events, games, and study groups, or just want to go to the new late night showing of a new movie, we are the ones who will miss out. I myself have programs that end at 8pm and if it takes me an hour to get home waiting patiently for a bus I don’t want to be hauled off doing absolutely nothing. Further more the police have a lot of things on their hands like crime murder and the occasional drug lord. Do they really have time to patrol Hartford picking up children who have never done anything.
Marnise, 17, Sports and Medical Sciences Academy

Check out The Hartford Courant's Poll and get the community's opinion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

One Nation under...Paris Hilton?

Last week Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain approved a TV spot entitled "Celeb" that labeled Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama "the biggest celebrity in the world" and juxtaposed his image with those of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

Well needless to say, that glimmer of media spotlight ignited a spark in Paris Hilton, and now things are getting hot!

Check out her videotaped reply.

Paris…for President?

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's...a Forum Blog!

Hello and welcome to the The Connecticut Forum blog - your place for the latest Forum news, videos, and discussion about issues affecting our communities and our world.

For the past 16 years, the Connecticut Forum has brought world-renowned experts and celebrities to the stage of the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut for the purpose of talk...the free and active exchange of ideas that challenge your beliefs and inspire you to think. Our live, unscripted, provocative Forums get the conversation started, and we make it our mission to keep it going - to engage and connect people across geographic, economic, social and racial divides for the purpose of building community.

There's simply nothing like the Forum experience, and through this blog we hope to share it with you. We invite you to join the conversation, to check out our Forum video clips, and of course, if possible, to come find out for yourself what makes us unique!

This Season, we are thrilled to bring Elizabeth Edwards, one of the most inspirational women and knowledgeable political insiders to Hartford to reflect on the office of the presidency, democracy, and the future. She will be joined by Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign and Joseph Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Founding Brothers.

Later this Season, Christopher Hitchens, the best-selling author of God is Not Great will participate in our discussion about God: Big Questions...Bigger Questions. Hitchens recently allowed himself to be waterboarded for an article he wrote in Vanity Fair entitled, Believe Me, It's Torture. The video of Hitchen's experience is perhaps as torturous to watch as it was for him to endure. You be the judge.