Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holidays with Heart: The CT Forum's 17th Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party

It's one of the best kept secrets in town.

Since 1993, The CT Forum's Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party has connected people across geographic, economic, social and racial divides to bring joy to children who might not otherwise experience a festive holiday.

On Monday, December 14th, dozens of volunteers from national corporations, local businesses, schools and towns - including 100 Connecticut high school students from the CT YOUTH Forum - welcomed nearly 300 Hartford elementary school students to the Hartford Marriott Downtown for an afternoon filled with crafts, food, gifts and entertainment.

Guided by adults and escorted by CT YOUTH Forum members dressed as elves, small groups of wide-eyed children explored every corner of the Marriott's grand ballroom. They decorated picture frames and gingerbread cookies, and created hand-made ornaments and other treasures.

With goodie bags in hand and colorful balloon hats on their heads, they feasted on a lavish buffet of kid-friendly fare, and even went back for seconds before waiting their turn to greet Santa and receive gifts. And guess what? Santa's beard was as real and genuine as the smiles that stretched across their painted faces.

In a season fraught with hardship and need, this was a special day indeed - not only for the children chosen by their teachers and principals to attend this celebration, but for the volunteers and sponsors who were able to experience firsthand some true holiday magic.

The Connecticut Forum gratefully acknowledges Aetna, Inc., the Target Corporation, the Hartford Marriott Downtown and our other generous sponsors for making this event possible.
* * * *

If you would like to learn more about volunteer or sponsorship opportunities for The CT Forum's Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party, please email us at info@ctforum.org.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What are you going to watch?

Winter, it seems, is here with a vengeance. The temperature when I woke up this morning was a bracing 12 degrees (Fahrenheit for all you international readers). This time of year inspires really only one thing in me, hibernation. For years, my plan for ursine-like-repose has been to set myself down, wrapped in a blanket, (No Snuggies for me, I'm a traditionalist.) and watch TV. Well, it seems I need to rethink my plan. Two recent articles have made some damning revelations about the "boob-tube."

From this summer:
Watching TV: Even Worse for Kids Than Youth Think.

It seems just the act, or inaction, of spending quality time with Sponge Bob actually dramatically raises a child's blood-pressure. At this rate we'll have to have chewable Beta-blockers.

Also, just yesterday:
How Less TV Changes Your Day

University of Vermont researchers figured if more TV was bad, less TV was good. They were right, beyond their wildest expectations. As the study shows, simply watching less TV led people to be more active and in being more active burned an average of 120 more calories a day. With a little simple math...

120 * 365 days = 43,800 calories a year / 3500 calories in a pound of fat =

12.5 pounds of fat a year...just for turning your TV off for a few hours a day.

Well, being a 30 something male with a few pounds to loose, I guess its becoming clear...my winter will be less TV and more naps.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Connecticut Forum Announces a New Video Website!

We are excited to announce the launch of The Forum Channel, a new website showcasing video from our Forum archives! This site is the only place to find full Forum conversations, and also includes hundreds of clips and dozens of past panelists.

Visitors to The Forum Channel will have free access to videos of past guests ranging from Phish’s Trey Anastasio to Spike Lee, touching on topics ranging from humor, politics, sports, music, race, American life, and more.

Visit the site at www.theforumchannel.tv, and subscribe to the site to receive updates as we add new video content over the coming months.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Geoffrey Canada and The Harlem Children's Zone

Last night's episode of 60 Minutes featured an interview with Geoffrey Canada about his charter school, The Promise Academy, a part of his Harlem Children's Zone plan. The school offers opportunities to children living in poverty and aims for every child enrolled to make it to college.

Canada was a panelist at the Education in America Forum back in 2006; during that conversation Canada inspired the audience to question an American educational system that would leave so many children behind. In this clip, Canada addresses the hurdles students face outside of the classroom.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The World Reacts to Obama's Afghanistan Plan

AP Photo

Last night the world tuned in to watch President Obama formally announce that an additional 30,000 troops will be sent to aid in the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

"I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan...I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake."

The President's decision has been highly anticipated following Bob Woodward's article in The Washington Post on September 21, 2009 that exposed the details of a confidential 66-page report in which top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal suggests that if more troops are not sent overseas, U.S. Military efforts "will likely result in failure."

Check out this collection of responses and opinions about President Obama's announcement from past Connecticut Forum panelists:

Matthew Dowd

"Bottom line: Good speech, lots of eloquence, little lasting political effect. Nine months ago nearly two-thirds of the country approved of President Obama's handling of Afghanistan. Today, a majority of the country disapproves. This speech will make little difference in that measure, in the president's overall approval rating or in the public's will to keep fighting this war. " more

Arianna Huffington

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Mo Rocca

(Via Twitter) "Obama to send 30,002 troops to Afghanistan (congrats, Tareq and Michaele Salahi! This time you're invited.)"

Thomas Friedman

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Thomas Friedman
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Richard Holbrooke

“I feel very strongly that Afghanistan is the ultimate test of Nato and the western alliance.”
Arguing that the consequences of failure would be far worse than those suffered by the US following its withdrawal from Vietnam. more

Andrew Sullivan

"I think this strategy is doomed. But then I think any strategy that does not pledge to colonize Afghanistan, pour trillions of dollars into it and stay for a century is doomed. So why do I end up this morning feeling rather similar to my colleague, Jim Fallows, who simply sighs
: 'Well, I hope he's right"?" more

Newt Gingrich

Michael Moore

"President Obama, it's time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don't need health care, we don't need jobs, we don't need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, 'cause we don't need them, either." more

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Behind the Scenes at the YOUTH Forum Press Conference

A guest blog post from Danielle Joseph, YOUTH Forum Associate.

Many of you have heard of the Youth Forum, but do you really know what they do? Sure they have monthly meetings with 200 students, they take trips to colleges, they go to local plays, but one of the most sought-after activities is the opportunity to interview the celebrity panelists before they ever go on stage at The Bushnell, as a part of the pre-Forum press conference.

At the YOUTH Forum Press Conference, eight lucky high school students get to interview people like Elizabeth Edwards, Malcolm Gladwell, and Mo Rocca. At our recent Forum, It's Satire!, the students got to meet and talk with panelists Samantha Bee, Jason Alexander, Randy Cohen and David Javerbaum.

YOUTH Forum students at the press conference.

The 30 minutes of discussion was exciting, interesting, and hilarious. Samantha Bee passionately discussed universal health care and her beloved Canadian system.

Samantha Bee emphasizes her point.

Youth Forum student Isaac Silk questioned Jason Alexander about his view on becoming the iconic George Costanza. (Turns out, he has no regrets!) Alexander also talked candidly about the effects of fame on his family and personal life.

Jason Alexander responds to a student inquiry.

Randy Cohen got caught up in the conversation of whether satire should or should not be politically inclined. The Ethicist was quick to question our students back on this question. At the end of the night, each of the students walked away not only meeting a funny celebrity but making a personal connection to a fascinating individual.

From left to right: Randy Cohen, Jason Alexander, Samantha Bee and David Javerbaum,
ready to answer YOUTH Forum questions.

YOUTH Forum students and the panelists pose together.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Behind the scenes with Jason Alexander, Samantha Bee, David Javerbaum & Randy Cohen

Photo courtesy of Nick Caito, Fox 61 News

Can't get enough of our It's Satire! panelists? Neither can we! Check our their answers to our backstage questionnaire, and stay tuned for more photos and videos from behind the scenes coming soon!

What is your favorite place in the world? Why?

David Javerbaum: My mother's womb...because I was happy there.

Samantha Bee: My cottage in the Catskills is my favorite place. When I go there with my family we instantly transform into out best, most relaxed, pink cheeked selves.

Jason Alexander: To hard to choose a favorite, but one of the most beautiful places is Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

Randy Cohen: Central Park-that urban jewel. It's the finest municipal park in America.

What is something you can't live without?

David Javerbaum: My lymphatic system.

Samantha Bee: My children and my husband.

Jason Alexander: My family, including the dog. Things are not something I get overly attached to as my entire childhood home was robbed by 8 men in a moving van when I was little.

Randy Cohen: A feeling of remorse.

What book are you currently reading?

David Javerbaum: Hop on Pop. (I have a two year old)

Samantha Bee: The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Mike Rubens (friend, ex-Daily Show producer)

Jason Alexander: Giants by Jonathan Stauffer a comparative study of the life and times of Frederick Douglas and Abe Lincoln.

Randy Cohen: Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel's Booker winner.

What is always in your fridge?

David Javerbaum: Cold air.

Samantha Bee: Whole milk, eggs, Perrier, broccoli, onions, and yogurt. I am boring.

Jason Alexander: Deodorant.

Randy Cohen: Hummus.

What surprises people about you?

David Javerbaum: When I jump out of a giant birthday cake.

Samantha Bee: That I am short, and nice.

Jason Alexander: Any discernible intelligence.

Randy Cohen: My having a refrigerator full of hummus.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fans & Teammates Remember UConn Football Player Jasper Howard

Rentschler Field was awash with the number 6 on Saturday afternoon, as teammates, fans and students remembered Jasper Howard, the University of Connecticut football player who was killed on campus two weeks ago.

Our YOUTH Forum Associate, Danielle Joseph, was there for the pre-game ceremonies and shared her thoughts about the tribute to Howard.

"At the UConn game on Saturday, everyone felt a sense of loss. Not because of the final score but because of the missing player, Jazz. For the few moments of silence the whole stadium seemed united. Even those of us who had never met him were overwhelmed by the unity the team, the fans, the band and the cheerleaders, showed by their proud display of the #6. Even though I had never met him I think Jazz would have been proud to see how many people he touched.”

Photo courtesy of NBCConnecticut.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Check out this recent article on NPR. Interesting commentary from Tech Revolution panelist danah boyd.

It seems, in the mind of many kids:

Facebook is "highclass"
Myspace is "trashy"
Twitter is for "old people."

Perhaps I can ad from my own anecdotal experience you could rewrite this as:

Facebook is for white people.
Myspace is for brown people.
Twitter is for(sorry) old people.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Zero-Tolerence for zero-tolerence

It seems the zero-tolerance monster is rearing its ugly head and the boy scouts are falling like dominoes.

Things are rough in Delaware's Christina School District.

Evidently, there is a gang of rampant, first-grade, ankle biters running around. And, their weapon of choice is a camping, knife-spoon-fork combination thingy. Cherubic, Zachary Christie was evidently so excited about joining the cub scouts that he brought his fork-spoon-knife thingy to school and that is where the iron fist of the law came slamming down.

For this egregious offence, suspension and the possibility (I’m not kidding) for reform school time.

Now, maybe darling Zachary is a holy terror and can’t be trusted with a down pillow, never mind a spoon-knife-fork thingy in school. Fair enough. Having worked many years with holy-terrors myself, I’ll give the school the benefit of the doubt. If that is the case, then the issue here is behavior of a particular child, not weapons in school. Somebody needs to have the cajones to deal with said child and parents as such and not hide behind a policy.

Next on the docket: Lansingburgh Senior High School student Matthew Whalen.

Now, where I might expect a kid like Zachary (above) to be a trouble maker, Matthew seems to be downright, goodie-two-shoes. Not only is he an Eagle Scout, Junior ROTC and has an award for saving a life, but he keeps an emergency kit in the trunk of his car. (The only emergency kit I ever had in my car was the spare change I kept in the ash tray in case I wanted a Slurpie on the road…until I lost the ash tray.) The problem? Matthew had the audacity to keep a two inch pocket knife in the kit. That, according to school officials is a weapon and for that he must be punished: 20 days suspension. Dare I state the obvious that this “weapon” was locked securely in the trunk of the kid’s car and next to it was probably a tire iron which is way more dangerous. Or perhaps, that anyone on the baseball team is likely to have a bat in their car which would inflict far more damage than the knife. Or maybe, even that Matthew was statistically an absolute menace to life and property when he got behind the wheel of the car and drove it and was much more likely to hurt or kill someone out of inexperience than intent with that knife.

Nope, none of that matters.

Here are the facts. Zero-tolerance policies don’t work. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, they do not reduce and even increase violent behavior in schools. They do not promote consistency in discipline in schools. They even seem to encourage drop-outs. All they seem to do is relieve school administrators from the responsibility of, oh I don’t know, being school administrators. I’ve always figured the reason adults teach the children is that the adults have better judgment. It doesn’t seem that way in these two cases.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've been carrying a pocket knife since I was 12. I've only ever stabbed myself, and that was an accident.

An addendum from my friend Becky!

Girls are trouble makers too! No knives here, but clearly a danger to herself and others...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Racism is Alive and Well (In case you were wondering)

It seems Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish's 8th Ward, is not the hopeless romantic we all thought he was. Keith has a standing policy when it comes to justice-of-the-peaceing, no interracial marriages. According to him, they just don't work out and, in the interest of "the children" he figures that mixed race kids are neither accepted by whites or blacks.

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way." — Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish, explaining why he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple.

So Keith:
A+ for standing up for your convictions.
F for having the convictions of a Southern racist caricature.

LSU's Daily Reveille

(I can't wait for all this National News coverage when a gay couple is denied a marriage license.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When Cakes go Bad...

Here's a recent world-wide-web find that I just had to share...It's Cake Wrecks!
It seems all who work in the Cake Decorating Craft are not up to the same level as our Forum Panelist Duff Goldman. Some are...well, you should check out the site.

Congratulations Heidi "(in Spanish!)" (now all "together")
Glad your "Here" (Are you really?)
Way to go Bob (Yeah Bob, way to go...)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

David Javerbaum Joins Panel for It's Satire! (Who's He?)

Who is David Javerbaum, you ask?

Well, he's the guy Jon Stewart called as a "lifeline" while participating on the TV game show, Celebrity Millionaire.

He's won a few (11!) Emmy awards producing and writing for The Daily Show.

He's also written for The Onion, Colbert Report, The Late Show & Harvard Lampoon.

And perhaps most importantly, he was a finalist on the Jeopardy! 1988 Teen Tournament and its 1998 Teen Reunion Tournament. ("Yes, Alex. I'll take Clearasil for 500, please.")

Then, of course, there's his latest book (released today!), What to Expect When You're Expected: A Fetus's Guide to the First Three Trimesters. Here's a quick "get to know you" video of Javerbaum discussing his book.

We're really looking forward to laughing along with David Javerbaum and fellow Forum panelists Jason Alexander and Samantha Bee at It's Satire! on Saturday, November 14th.

You can read more about David Javerbaum here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Revolutionary Trivia: What's in Jessica Jackley's Refrigerator?

Now that you've gotten to know our "Revolutionary" Forum panelists, it's time for a little quiz!

**Hint: All of the answer choices below are the actual responses of our panelists and moderator from Revolutionary Thinkers. **

1. What is something Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot can't live without?
a). Music
b). Family
c). Conversations with her dad
d). Her coat collection
e). Darwin

2. What is Juan Enriquez's favorite place in the world?
a). Home
b). Underwater, diving on a coral reef
c). On a yoga mat
d). A lake house in New Hampshire
e). Martha's Vineyard

3. What is always in Jessica Jackley's fridge?

a). skim milk
b). vegetables
c). Mexican food
d). Pete's French Roast coffee
e). face lotion

4. What surprises people most about Will Allen?
a). "I'm nice but very confrontational when I want to be."
b). "How well I listen."
c). "That I can dance."
d). "I can't make good coffee and I have no sense of direction."
3). "I tend to be very quiet before I talk."

What book is Allison Stewart currently reading?
a). Born to Run
b). Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye
c). None
d). What is the What and The Greatest Generation
e). 10 different ones

Give up? Here are your answers. 1D, 2B, 3E, 4C, 5D

But can you guess who else said what? Let us know if you need a hint.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Some Revolutionary Thinking...

A taste of some of the the revolutionary thinking going on at the Forum on Friday...

Do you have a favorite moment? Want to see more? Let us know!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Last night we kicked off our exciting season with Revolutionary Thinkers featuring Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, renowned Harvard sociologist and educator, and Juan Enriquez, futurist and scientist. Award-winning TV and radio journalist Alison Stewart moderated.

Here are some behind the scenes photos!

Doris and Richard Sugarman welcome Moderator Alison Stewart to Hartford. Alison was very very interested in learning about Hartford and seeing how the current economic climate has affected our town.

Alison, Sara and Juan chat about their hometowns while signing autographs at the panelist meeting. Here, the panelists meet for the first time and get acquainted before the evening begins.

Want to know what Juan's favorite book is, or what is always in his refrigerator?
He answers those questions and more on our new panelist questionnaire.
Check back next week to see what all of our panelists shared!

Jessica Jackley warms up the crowd at the pre-Forum dinner.

Will Allen and Richard Sugarman greet the pre-Forum dinner guests. Richard and Will were old college pals at The University of Miami!

The panelists visit The Bushnell and meet our stage director Arnold Berman (at left).

Richard and Sara admire the many signatures that adorn the walls backstage at The Bushnell.

Alison and Richard sort through questions from the audience in preparation for the second half.

As you can imagine, it's easy to be intimidated by these big thinkers with even bigger accomplishments - but there was no need. They were all extremely friendly and kind, and seemed to be in awe of each other, just as we were all in awe of them. Revolutionary Thinkers proved to be just what we hoped...an inspirational, educational, and motivational evening full of ideas, reflections, and insights.

Come back soon for behind the scenes videos and more!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Six Degrees of Bill Clinton: The Clinton Global Initiative Recognizes Will Allen and Kiva

Yes, we've heard - you want us to bring Bill Clinton to The Forum.

Every year, when we survey our audience, YOUTH Forum members and various community members regarding ideas for our upcoming Season, there are certain individuals who repeatedly appear on your list of desired panelists - names like Oprah, Nelson Mandela, and... Bill Clinton.

And we try, we really do.

But did you know that two people honored by Clinton's Global Initiative (CGI) last week - one of whom Clinton called his hero - will be here, in Hartford, at The Forum this Friday? (That's tomorrow!)

Will Allen and his organization Growing Power work to provide high quality, safe and affordable food to all members of the community. With support from the Clinton Global Initiative, Growing Power will introduce its model of local food systems and sustainability in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Jessica Jackley and Kiva.org were also a part of the commitments made by the Clinton Global Initiative. Kiva.org provides micro-loans to third-world entrepreneurs to help them lift themselves out of poverty. With the commitment from CGI, Kiva, in partnership with Moodys, will build on-the-ground teams to "expand its capacity to connect with entrepreneurs, assess their creditworthiness, and monitor progress toward loan repayment."

Allen and Jackley will be joined at The Forum by Harvard Sociologist and Educator Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot and the futurist, scientist and businessman Juan Enriquez. Award-winning TV and radio journalist Alison Stewart will moderate.

You may not see Bill Clinton on stage at The Forum tomorrow night, but you will most definitely see the people Bill Clinton would like to see on the world's stage. And we think that's pretty cool.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Protect Insurance Companies PSA: Some Satire for your Thursday Afternoon

Sure, the healthcare debate is still in full swing, but it's never too soon to bring on the satire. And I think Will Ferrell gets it right...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bob Woodward leaks confidential Afghanistan Policy Report in The Washington Post

Bob Woodward, known as one of the greatest investigative reporters of our time, has done it again.

In a front page article of The Washington Post yesterday, Woodward leaked the details of a confidential 66-page report, in which top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal explains to President Barack Obama that if more troops are not sent overseas, U.S. Military efforts "will likely result in failure." In the article, McChrystal goes on to explain:
"Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

While many are calling the leak a political embarrassment, there is no indication that the White House plans to launch a formal investigation into the leaker's identity or intentions, and some are speculating that it might even have been an intentional leak from the Obama administration.

Known for his ability to shake down administrations through high powered sources and leaks, Woodward is one of the most renowned, and perhaps feared journalists in D.C. Here, he shares tips on investigative reporting:

Want more? Mr. Woodward will visit The Connecticut Forum
on Thursday, March 4, 2010 as part of the
World of Change panel!
For more details, visit www.ctforum.org.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jason Alexander to Join Samantha Bee in Hartford

Yesterday we announced that Jason Alexander (a.k.a. George Costanza from Seinfeld) will be joining our panel for It's Satire on November 14th - a panel that already includes The Daily Show's hilarious and uber-talented Samantha Bee.

As if that weren't enough, Randy Cohen, humorist and author of The Ethicist from The New York Times Magazine, will moderate the conversation. But the fun doesn't stop there! We'll be announcing yet another panelist for this Forum in the coming weeks.

Needless to say, judging by the litany of bad Seinfeld character impersonations ("Helloooooo!") and the copious research being conducted on Comedy Central and YouTube, we're just a wee bit excited here at The Forum office.

That said, here's a little taste of Jason Alexander as everyone's favorite lovable loser, George Costanza.