Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Countdown to Temple Grandin at The Connecticut Forum

Dr. Temple Grandin will talk about "The Glorious Mysterious Brain"
on Friday, February 25, 2011 at The CT Forum.

2010 was a big year for renowned doctor, professor, best-selling author and autism advocate Temple Grandin. She received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Duke University, had her life story adapted into a movie for HBO, and attended the Emmy Awards to see the film win seven Emmys, including Best Made-for-Television Movie, Best Director, Best Lead Actress, and Best Music Composition.

Grandin looks to keep herself just as busy in 2011 as she joins our CT Forum panel on Friday, February 25, 2011 for the Glorious, Mysterious Brain alongside Steven Pinker and another panelist soon to be announced. 
Tickets are first come first served, and can be purchased online at www.ctforum.org.  A limited number of "Ultimate" ticket packages are available to those seeking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Forum panelists, attend the pre-Forum cocktail reception and dinner, get GREAT seats, and much more.  For more information, please call Peter at (860) 509-0909 ext. 25.

Click here to see earlier related blog posts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Present for the Holidays

We were humbled to receive the following poem from a long time member of our Forum Family, someone who attended our Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party for the first time this year and was deeply moved by the experience.

This poem is his gift to us - all of us - and a wonderful reminder about the real meaning of the holiday season.  Enjoy!

For reasons best not expressed
This season had found me quite depressed
Until, that is, when I was invited
To an event for which I was not excited.
A group whose work I have adored
(I sit on their advisory board)
For 18 years has held a fete,
A holiday event for children set
In a ballroom, grand and cavernous
Where, erstwhile, men quite ravenous
Had sat dining, whining of things financial
Thinking their work was so substantial.
But now that room with lofty ceiling
Was filled a brim with holiday feeling,
The sound of unfettered joy,
The jingling of a jangling toy,
Tables set with crafts to bring forth glee
For children of all sorts to see.
Volunteers from here and there
Had taken time enough to care
To put aside their own lives’ burdens
Bringing joy unto these young ones
Whose lives, I regret to say,
Are ones that, day to day,
Cause them their laughs to suppress,
To find a way to do with less
Than others of their tender years
For many exist in homes of fear
And those who come are but a few
Of the many others deserving too.

They are a motley bunch
Who have been invited here for lunch,
Tall, short and of varied hew
Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew
All together, laughing, sharing
No one at the other staring
All accepting of each other
Treating each like sister, brother,
Squealing at the man on stilts,
Running round the room full tilt,
Filling up the room with magic,
Unaware their lives are tragic,
Giggling at the silly clown,
As the clock goes running down.
Soon their fun would have to end
And back to their homes we’d have to send
Them having had a moment’s bliss
That otherwise they would have missed
But for the work of volunteer

Who came to share a bit of cheer.
I don’t know if they’ll remember
This day of fun in mid-December.
But I am sure to cherish dearly
That which I approached so wearily
When their laughter, like a dart,
Did vanquish the grayness in my heart.
It’s amazing how a child’s sweet face
Can one’s anchored sorrow quick displace.

And, afterwards, it struck me -
Is it not an irony,
That bringing joy unto a child
And by their smile become beguiled
Into a sense of love for others
Treating each like sisters, brothers
Whether thin, fat, short or tall
Is the meaning of this season
after all?
So to you my colleagues and my friends,
Regardless of what life intends,
I wish much joy and happiness;
Indeed, I wish you childlike bliss.
To find it you need only bend
And to a child your blessings send.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Smiles All Around at CT Forum's 18th Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party

What a day!

Some very happy children holding special gifts and photos with Santa!

The Hartford Marriott Downtown was the place to be yesterday! 
A fantastic group of people - including 300 Hartford elementary school students, 100 CT YOUTH Forum elves, 33 sponsoring organizations, numerous volunteers and one great big Santa Claus - made th
is our best Children's Holiday party yet!

"Is it really you, Santa Claus?"
This lucky child guessed the correct number of candies in the jar...
and took home the jackpot!
Frosty the Snowman and Rudolf helped make this a day to remember!
"Who's ready to go see Santa Claus?"
Sincere thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers and sponsors, especially Target Stores and the Hartford Marriott Downtown for making this great event possible. 

You can read more about our Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party here, or call us at (860) 509-0909 if you would like to get involved in the outreach activities of The Connecticut Forum.
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The CT Forum's Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party: It's All About the Kids

Something magical is happening on Monday, December 13, 2010. 

Imagine... the expressions on the faces of hundreds of children as they enter the Hartford Marriott Downtown for the first time.  

Watch... their eyes widen as they are escorted through the hotel's luxurious lobby to what appears to be the tallest escalator in the world. 

See... smiles expand as they are greeted by Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf, and dozens of real live Elves, green tights and all. 

Feel... their excitement as they enter the Grand Ballroom and find crafts to make and cookies to decorate and games to play and food to eat and presents to open - presents that have been hand-picked just for them. 

Hear... shrieks of laughter as they "high five" a juggler on stilts, see magic tricks performed before their eyes and - wait, did you just hear jingling?- SANTA!

Now in its 18th year, The CT Forum's Annual Hartford Children's Holiday Party may well be one of Hartford's very best kept secrets - an event made possible by hundreds of CT Forum volunteers and sponsors, including national corporations, local businesses, schools, towns, groups and individuals.

But this party is not about them, and that's why you might not have heard about it.

It's all about the kids. 

If you would like to get in on the secret by donating your time and/or resources, please call us! (860) 509-0909

Monday, December 6, 2010

Continuing the Education Conversation: CT Business Leaders Gather at Early Childhood Summit

As promised, The Connecticut Forum presented the first of several education summits last week to continue the conversation about education started at our November Forum, Our Great Education Challenge.

A partnership between The Connecticut Forum and The CBIA Education Foundation, the summit, "Why Business Should Care About Early Childhood Education," focused on the importance of preschool education to our state's economic competitiveness and how the business community can get involved.

Nearly 100 CT business executives and educators were in attendance to hear featured presentations from:
- Elaine Weiss, Project Manager, PEW Center on the States, Partnership for America's Economic Success
- Rob Grunewald, Associate Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
- Rob Dugger, Managing Partner, Hanover Investment Group and advisory board chair of The Partnership for America's Economic Success.

Richard Sugarman, founding president of The Connecticut Forum, was the moderator.
Robert Dugger, managing partner of Hanover Investment Group,
presenting at the summit.
Photo by Christine Stuart, CT News Junkie
After their presentations, the panelists were joined for discussion and a Q&A session by local panelists, including:
- Karen Foley-Schain, Executive Director, Children's Trust Fund
- David Nee, Executive Director, William Graustein Memorial Fund
- Linda Kelly, President, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

Linda McMahon with Bryan Flint.
Photo by Christine Stuart, CT News Junkie

We hope that this summit is the first of many to raise awareness and public will for education reform.

You can read further coverage of the event by CT News Junkie and CBIA.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The CT Forum Panelists - In the News!

Connecticut Forum panelists have been making lots of headlines lately. Here's a round-up of some past and future CT Forum panelists who have been featured in recent national headlines:

Kurt Vonnegut: The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library was recently the recipient of a $100,000 grant that will go towards finishing up the library's downtown Indianapolis space dedicated to the legendary American author. Vonnegut participated in our 2006 Forum, An Evening With our Favorite Writers. You can read about the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Watch Vonnegut at The Forum

Tina Brown: A seasoned Forum Alum, Tina Brown has participated in not one but two Forum events - A World of Change in 2010 and Talkin' 'Bout My Generation in 2005. As the founder and editor of The Daily Beast, Brown's been making headlines this week - including this story in the New York Times - because of The Daily Beast's merger with Newsweek in a joint venture to form The Newsweek Daily Beast Company.

Watch Brown at The Forum

Jonathan Franzen: We're beyond excited that Celebrated Author Jonathan Franzen will be participating in our last Forum of the season, Forum Book Club on May 7, 2011. Franzen, who was also recently featured on the cover (the COVER!) of TIME magazine, has been showered with accolades for his new novel, Freedom, since its release earlier this year. He'll be a guest on Oprah (OPRAH!!) on December 6, where the two are expected to kiss and make-up after their publicized spat a few years back. Here's the dish: Oprah wanted to feature Franzen's first novel, The Corrections, in her book club. Franzen spoke publicly about his concerns that the opportunity might turn off potential readers (namely: males) from reading the book. Oprah subsequently un-invited him and, we can assume, many Oprah viewers added him to their black-list. Now, however, the spat seems to be over and the love-fest can begin.

Patti Smith: Rock Legend Patti Smith wowed everyone at our Forum Music Fest last May - from long time fans to high school age CT YOUTH Forum members who were just meeting her for the first time. Cool, real, and incredibly talented, we celebrate Patti's latest accomplishment: the National Book Award for nonfiction for her memoir, Just Kids.

Watch Smith at The Forum

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Education Showcase and More at "Our Great Education Challenge"

We'll be holding a special Education Showcase featuring local education groups in the Bushnell theater lobby on Thursday, November 11 as a part of our second Forum of the Season, Our Great Education Challenge.

The Education Showcase will be available to Forum audience members beginning at 7pm, during intermission, and immediately following The Forum. The Showcase offers an opportunity to interact with local education groups, ask questions and learn more.

The following organizations will be part of the Education Showcase:

Achieve Hartford: Achieve Hartford is an independent, nonprofit organization of business and community leaders that focuses on student achievement and supporting effective and sustained school reform in the Hartford Public Schools.

CBIA Education Foundation: CBIA's Education Foundation is a nonprofit affiliate of CBIA whose mission is to help develop a skilled, knowledgeable workforce in Connecticut.

CommPACT Schools: CommPACT Schools is a partnership including the American Federation of Teachers - Connecticut; Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents; Connecticut Education Association; Connecticut Federation of School Administrators; and Neag School of Education at The University of Connecticut.

ConnCAN: ConnCAN is a platform for Connecticut citizens to effectively speak up for kids. To close Connecticut's gaping achievement gap, a new ethos of reform must permeate state government, the education establishment, and the wide community of citizens.

The Connecticut State University System: The Connecticut State University System is an exemplary state university system advancing the educational needs of the citizens of Connecticut and the nation within a global society.

William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund: The mission of The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund is to improve the effectiveness of education in fostering both personal development and leadership. A belief that education benefits both individuals and society as a whole guides their work.

University of Connecticut Neag School of Education: The Neag School of Education works to develop students with strong ethical standards into leaders dedicated to improving education, health and wellness for all children and adults.

Sheff Movement: The Sheff Movement Coalition is a collaboration of parents, citizens, educators and others who work to educate the public about proven voluntary integration measures and increase support for quality education for all children.

The Connecticut YOUTH Forum Student Voices: With more than 750 high school-aged youth from 40 high schools and community groups, The CT YOUTH Forum comes together year round to exchange ideas and learn from one another. We invite you to ask us about our schools and our views on education.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Exciting Panelist Announcement! Vice President of NEA, the Largest Teachers' Union, Joins CT Forum on Education

We are thrilled to announce that
Vice President, NEA
The largest teachers' union, 3.2 million members

will be a panelist at
Our Great Education Challenge on
Thursday, November 11, 2010!

As vice president of the National Education Association (NEA), Lily Eskelsen is one of the highest-ranking labor leaders in the country and one of its most influential Hispanic educators. Named Utah Teacher of the Year after teaching for only nine years, later serving both the Utah Education Association and the NEA, Eskelsen believes that educators are professionals with the responsibility to take action, individually and collectively, to make the promise of public education a reality and to prepare every student to succeed.

Eskelsen began her career in education as a lunch worker in a school cafeteria and a kindergarten aide before pursuing degrees in elementary education and instructional technology. She taught kindergarten to sixth grade in the middle-class suburbs of Salt Lake and its one-room shelter school. She has taught children labeled gifted and children labeled homeless. In 1989, after being named Utah Teacher of the Year, she used the platform to speak out against the dismal funding of Utah schools. She was subsequently elected president of the Utah Education Association, her first elected position in the Association. She has also served on the NEA Executive Committee, and as NEA Secretary-Treasure.

Eskelsen was president of the Utah State Retirement System, president of the Children at Risk Foundation, and a member of the White House Strategy Session on Improving Hispanic Education. She has built alliances with parents, business and civil rights organizations, and with advocates for the disabled and the poor. In 1998, she ran for political office as the first Hispanic to be chosen as her party’s nominee for U.S. Congress in Utah, raising close to $1 million and taking 45% of the vote against the incumbent.

Eskelsen authored a humor column on parenting that ran in 22 local newspapers. Her advice for parents has been published in Time, Working Mother and Parenting magazines. She’s been featured on Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes” and CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” She has been the invited keynote speaker for hundreds of education events and was highlighted by Education World in their “Best Conference Speakers” edition.

We believe Lily's perspective and experience will bring much to this important conversation.  Hope to see you at The CT Forum!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Great Questions Raised at CT Forum on Civility

From left to right, The End of Civility? panelists David Gergen, Gina Barreca,
Connie Schultz (screen), Stephen Carter, & Christopher Buckley

Now that our first Forum of the Season, The End of Civility? is over, it's truly "the end of civility" - in one sense, at least.

However, there's no end to the questions we all have about civility. We were inundated with audience questions for the panelists during Intermission - many more questions than we could possibly address in the Q&A during the Forum's second half. For now, we can only imagine Stephen Carter's response to the question, Who are we to judge what is civil behavior? or Christopher Buckley's facial expression when asked, In 20 years, will there be anyone left who knows what civility is?

Here are just a few of the thoughtful and provocative questions that we're continuing to think about and discuss. We hope you do the same!

  • Is incivility a leading or trailing social indicator?
  • How is the loss of civility linked to a sense of hopelessness, a sense of loss of the "civil contract"?
  • How can we be a moral leader around the world when we exhibit such vitriol and lack of civility in our public discourse?
  • Is an attitude of "we're all in this together" a central element of a civil society? Have we lost that?
  • How do we break the cycle of ever-increasing incivility, disrespect, and intolerance?
  • Don't you think there's a huge correlation between the lack of religion and the lack of civility?

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    The Threat of Civility?

    Is incivility defensible? Special Forum guest blogger Rosanne Thomas of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc. reflects on the uncivil response to Jon Stewart's call for respectful public discourse. 

    Jon Stewart has called for a restoration of respectful public discourse through a "Million Moderate March," scheduled for October 30 in Washington. One cannot argue with the merits of such a pursuit or malign the person who proposed it, can one?

    Apparently, one can and many have. Actual defenses of incivility as just "the way to get things done" are lumped in with personal attacks upon Mr. Stewart that include references to his heritage, his intelligence, his leanings, his motives, his audience and the success (read failure) of an event that will not be held for another month. Really? For suggesting respectful discourse? It would seem a "rally to restore sanity" is coming in the nick of time.

    The purpose of the March, says Mr. Stewart, is to counter "the minority of 15 percent to 20 percent of the country that has dominated the national political discussion with extreme rhetoric." He holds both major political parties accountable for their roles in the discussion. In calling for the rally, Mr. Stewart has imposed upon himself a very high standard. For his own credibility and to achieve his goal, he will need to both model civility and maintain an apolitical stance, not necessarily an easy thing to do for someone with strong opinions. Yet, it can be done, and if done well, will provide a workable template for us all.

    In the meantime, some simple thoughts on promoting public discourse include:
    • To be respected, one must respect
    • To be heard, one must listen
    • To be understood, one must strive to understand
    • To teach, one must be willing to learn

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Jon Schnur Joins Panel for CT Forum on Education

    We are thrilled to share that
    Education Reform Pioneer &
    CEO, New Leaders for New Schools
    will be a panelist at Our Great Education Challenge on Thursday, November 11, 2010.  He will join fellow panelists Davis Guggenheim, director of the highly anticipated film Waiting for "Superman" and Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools.

    Jon Schnur is CEO and co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS), the largest organization in the nation for recruiting and training urban principals. He has served as an advisor to Barack Obama's Presidential campaign, a member of the Presidential Transition Team, and a senior policy advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Schnur has developed national education policies from preschool to higher education - with special focus on teacher and educator quality, reforming urban school systems, charter schools, after-school programs, and early learning and preschools. He believes that quality education for all children is achievable, essential, and urgently needed to create a better future for our nation and world.

    Schnur's national non-profit organization, NLNS, recruits and trains about ten percent of the new principals needed for high poverty, low-income schools in the United States. In September 2009, NLNS became the first and only non-profit-led partnership with a public school system to win Harvard University's Innovations in Government Award from the ASH Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. NLNS has one mission: driving high levels of learning and achievement for every student by attracting and preparing outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead at scale.

    Before co-founding NLNS, Schnur served as Special Assistant to Secretary of Education Richard Riley, President Clinton's White House Associate Director for Educational Policy, and Senior Advisor of Education to Vice President Gore.

    Schnur graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Politics with honors, took coursework at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government and graduated from a Wisconsin public high school.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    I'm Sorry: The Art of the Apology

    Special Forum guest blogger Rosanne Thomas, certified etiquette and protocol consultant and founder of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc., reflects on non-apology apologies and helps us say we're sorry like a pro.
    Where civility is concerned, a bad apology---and we know it when we hear it--is truly worse than no apology at all. The reproachful, "I'm sorry if you were offended." The take-no-personal-blame, "Errors were made." The accusatory, "I'm sorry, but you...." The discounting, "I was only joking!" Politicians, sports figures and entertainers have all been known to issue such non-apologies, and we've probably done so ourselves. Those on the receiving end of these "apologies" feel less than satisfied and rightfully so. The issuer is trying to have it both ways: to go on record as having done the right thing, but to leave wiggle room and save face at the same time. It doesn't work.

    Why people shy away from honestly apologizing is a mystery. The sincere apology is an incredibly powerful, yet woefully underused tool. A true apology saves relationships, rights wrongs and shows strength (not weakness). It allows us to be human: to make a mistake, to own up to it and to move on. It also allows others to forgive, a good practice, as inevitably we will all need to be forgiven.

    So what are some elements of a good apology?
    • It is delivered as soon as possible, through appropriate means, i.e., via email, telephone call, personal note, in person, through a gift, etc. The seriousness of the breach determines the means: forgetting to return a call is one thing; forgetting to attend a dinner in your honor another entirely.
    • It specifically acknowledges the inconvenience or harm caused, and how this must have made the person feel.
    • It is unequivocal; no ifs, ands or buts about it.
    • It recalls no past grievances.
    • It includes a promise to try and not let it happen again.
    Sincere apologies are very likely to accepted, paving the way for stronger relationships and more civil discourse.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Waiting for "Superman" Director Davis Guggenheim Joins CT Forum Education Panel

    Davis Guggenheim

    Exciting news!
    Director of the highly anticipated film
    Waiting for Superman, as well as
    An Inconvenient Truth
    will be a panelist at our upcoming Forum,
    Our Great Education Challenge , on November 11, 2010.

    He will join fellow panelist Joel Klein, chancellor of New York Public Schools, and other panelists to be announced soon.

    Davis Guggenheim is an American film director and producer who is perhaps best known for directing and producing An Inconvenient Truth, the Academy Award winning documentary about global warming.

    His most recent documentary, Waiting for "Superman" explores the ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation’s children, and the roles that charter schools and education reformers could play in the future. Guggenheim sees dysfunction in our schools and in the politics around them. “Why can’t there be a great school for every kid in America? It just doesn’t make sense to me. That’s why I made this movie.” His hope for the film is to “engage real people to get involved in the subject so that we can create enough political will to change our system.”

    Earlier in his career, Guggenheim focused on the challenging first year of several novice public school teachers in The Los Angeles public school system in his documentary films, The First Year and Teach. He made these films to address the tremendous need for qualified teachers in California and nationwide, to create awareness of the crisis in our schools, and to inspire the next generation to become teachers.

    His other film and television credits as a producer and director include Training Day, The Shield, Alias, 24, NYPD Blue, ER, Deadwood, and Party of Five. In 2009, he directed and produced a documentary It Might Get Loud, about the history of the electric guitar and careers and styles of Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White.

    He lives in California with his wife, actress Elisabeth Shue, and their three children.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Freedom Author Jonathan Franzen Joins CT Forum Panel

    Franzen photo credit Greg Martin (Freedom)
    We are thrilled to announce that
    Celebrated Novelist...The Corrections and Freedom
    will be a panelist at our Forum Book Club on Saturday, May 7, 2011. 

    He will join fellow panelists Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, and John Irving, author of The Cider House Rules and The World According to Garp.

    Jonathan Franzen is a celebrated American novelist and essayist whose most recent book, Freedom, much like his 2001 novel The Corrections, has won widespread critical acclaim. Touted as “a work of total genius,” and a “tour de force,” Freedom is considered a masterpiece in American fiction and Franzen a “literary genius of our time.” He is the first American author to appear on the cover of TIME magazine in the last ten years.

    Franzen’s acclaimed novel, The Corrections, earned the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction, the 2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, and was a finalist for the 2002 Pultizer Prize for Fiction. The Corrections was also selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club in 2001; however, Franzen declined the opportunity for fear that the Oprah logo on the cover might dissuade men from reading the book. Franzen subsequently gained widespread media attention and The Corrections became one of the decade’s best-selling works of literary fiction. His other novels include The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion.

    Franzen’s 2002 essay collection, How to Be Alone included “Perchance to Dream, “ a 1996 Harpers essay bemoaning the state of literature and his discomfort with the place of fiction in contemporary society. He further explored the influence of his childhood and adolescence on his creative life in his 2006 memoir, The Discomfort Zone.

    Among Franzen’s rules for aspiring writers are: ”You see more sitting still than chasing after” and “Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.”

    Educated at Swarthmore, Franzen studied on a Fulbright Scholarship in Germany. He lives in New York City and also writes for The New Yorker magazine.

    Please visit our website for more information about Forum Book Club on Saturday, May 7, 2011.

    Note: At this time, tickets for Forum Book Club are currently on sale to Forum Members only, but you may call (860) 509-0909 to get on the pre-sale waiting list. Wait list ticket orders will be processed in the order they are received.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    CT Forum "Brain" Panelist Temple Grandin Wins Big at the Emmy Awards - Grandin will Appear in CT on February 25, 2011

    Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

    Last night HBO's Temple Grandin won big at the 2010 Emmys, taking home awards for Best Made for TV Movie and Directing in a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, as well as Best Actress and Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Claire Danes and Julia Ormand respectively.

    "I hope this movie is going to educate a lot of people about autism because there's a lot of people who don't understand it," Grandin said backstage.

    The subject of the movie, Temple Grandin, will join our "Glorious, Mysterious Brain" panel on February 25, 2011 alongside Steven Pinker and others yet to be announced.

    Temple on the red carpet:

    Temple accepts award for Best Made for TV Movie and Directing in a Miniseries:

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    The Gift of Listening

    When our views are so polarized, it becomes increasingly difficult to listen...and hear.
    Special Forum guest blogger Rosanne Thomas, certified etiquette and protocol consultant and founder of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc., reflects on the public response to the proposed Islamic Center in New York and offers tips to help us communicate with respect, despite our differences.

    Mention the now approved Islamic community center to be built near the site of the World Trade Center and you will get an opinion. Politicians and the general public are voicing theirs (some even making up words, i.e., 'refudiate,' so great is their consternation), and dissenting opinions are often met with shrill invective. President Obama, the Reverend Pat Robinson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former House of Representative Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and countless others have weighed in. "Religious tolerance" and "freedom of assembly" are juxtaposed against "insult and dishonor" and "a slap in the face to victims and their families."

    The 9/11 attacks evoke universal sadness and anger to this day. And in the midst of these emotions, if there is disagreement, true listening, understanding and respect are hard to come by. For many, it is difficult to remember that the vast majority of Muslims were as horrified and traumatized as anyone that day, yet have lived with guilt by association ever since. For others whose losses were simply overwhelming, to expect them to embrace a mosque near the site seems too much to ask.

    There may in fact be no common ground here, but there may still be an opportunity. Deciding to really listen, to respect even if we do not agree, to not take dissenting opinions personally and to accept that others just see things differently could do us all a world of good.

    In active listening, we:

    • Subjugate our thoughts and feelings about a topic in favor of a speaker's thoughts and feelings
    • Tune in to both what the speaker is saying and how s/he feels about what s/he is saying
    • Give the speaker the gift of understanding and respect, even if we do not agree

    To listen well, we must:

    • Give undivided attention
    • Refrain from asking questions or directing the conversation
    • Mirror the speaker's emotions, i.e., smile if s/he smiles, or look concerned if s/he looks concerned
    • Restate through-out to make sure we understand and to let the speaker know we are listening
    • Empathize
    While our opinions may not change, we still may learn something and may forge a new or stronger relationship in the process.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    A Blow for Civility

    Special Guest Blogger Rosanne Thomas, certified etiquette and protocol consultant and founder of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc., continues the conversation about the recent Jet Blue incident and what it means for civility.

    In yesterday's New York Times, Benedict Carey wrote of Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant whose dramatic exit from a plane after an encounter with a passenger has elevated him to folk hero status. The veracity of Mr. Slater's account is now in question after several other passengers offered different views of what actually transpired.

    But whether the messenger is ultimately to be believed, light has been shone on the very real challenges faced by those who deal with the public every day, and perhaps what happened is a good thing. Or perhaps it isn't.

    Time will tell if Mr. Slater's claims have merit. If they do not, time will also tell whether what he did for the "working man" was more harmful than helpful, a potential ironic blow to customer service workers who deserve a credible advocate.

    In the meantime, what we know for sure is that Mr. Slater struck no "blow for civility" as Mr. Carey asserts. Answering alleged rudeness with rudeness, and in this case involving an entire plane of innocent passengers, lowers the bar of respectful discourse across the board. These are undoubtedly stressful times, yet nothing can be gained by lauding such behavior. Civility, unfortunately, was not on board that day.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Civility Meets the Unfriendly Skies

    Special Guest Blogger Rosanne Thomas, certified etiquette and protocol consultant and founder of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc., weighs in on the recent Jet Blue incident.

    Recent events upon a Jet Blue flight have brought into focus the element of "stress" and its impact upon daily lives.

    According to the vast majority, stress, defined as "an emotionally disruptive or disquieting influence," was largely to blame for the unprecedented behavior of a flight attendant that day. Rude customers, unforgiving work conditions and unrelenting pressure finally took their cumulative toll and he had an understandable, even justifiable "meltdown," they say. In fact, his actions were lauded as working-class heroics by those who only wish they had the courage to do the same.

    While most of us do indeed sympathize and perhaps even relate to the challenges of stressful working conditions, something is amiss here and one can only wonder how the situation might have been handled differently. Incivility, regardless of provocation, harms more than just those directly involved. It sets our collective bar for respectful interactions lower and opens the door for even more egregious and potentially harmful behaviors in the future.

    "Answer rudeness with civility, with politeness." Rosanne Thomas

    Click here to see Rosanne featured on WBZ TV's Keller @ Large! http://wbztv.com/video/?id=91758@wbz.dayport.com

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Connie Schultz to Moderate CT Forum on Civility

    We are thrilled to once again welcome Connie Schultz to The Connecticut Forum as moderator for our first Forum this Season, "The End of Civility?" on Saturday, October 2, 2010.  Panelists for this Forum include David Gergen, Christopher Buckley, Stephen Carter, and Gina Barreca.

    A nationally syndicated columnist for The Cleveland Plain Dealer and PARADE magazine's column "Back Page,"  Schultz won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for columns that judges praised for providing “a voice for the underdog and the underprivileged."

    During the 2008 presidential race, she was a frequent guest on The Charlie Rose Show and also offered her Midwesterner's perspective on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher and C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.  
    Schultz is the author of two books published by Random House: …And His Lovely Wife, a memoir about her husband Sherrod Brown’s successful 2006 race for the U.S. Senate, and Life Happens – And Other Unavoidable Truths, a collection of essays.

    In 2005, Schultz won a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award and a National Headliner Award, both for commentary.  She was a 2003 Pulitzer Prize finalist in feature writing for her series, The Burden of Innocence, which chronicled the ordeal of Michael Green, who was imprisoned for 13 years for a rape he did not commit.  The week after Schultz’s series ran, the real rapist turned himself in after reading her stories.  The series won the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Social Justice Reporting, the National Headliner Award's Best of Show and journalism awards from Harvard and Columbia universities.

    In 2004, Schultz won the Batten Medal, which honors "a body of journalistic work that reflects compassion, courage, humanity and a deep concern for the underdog."  Recently, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland awarded Schultz the Whitney M. Young Humanitarian Award.

    She has moderated two previous CT Forums: God in 2009 with Rabbi Harold Kushner, Christopher Hitchens, and Reverend Peter Gomes; and A World of Change in 2010 with Bob Woodward and Tina Brown

    Here's a clip of Connie in action last Season at A World of Change.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Author John Irving Joins the Forum Book Club Panel!

    The Connecticut Forum Announces:
    John Irving to Join Azar Nafisi at
    The Forum Book Club
    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Novelist and screenwriter John Irving is one of the most popular and respected writers in the world. His novels have become American classics; each one is a publishing event.

    Irving’s first international bestseller, The World According to Garp, introduced a world of readers to his inventive and expansive style, memorable characters and masterfully woven stories-within-stories. Garp won a National Book Award in 1980 and was made into a film starring Robin Williams.

    Since Garp’s release, all of Irving’s novels, including Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and A Widow for One Year, have been translated into over 30 languages and sold tens of millions of copies, and The Cider House Rules was turned into a movie in 1999 that won him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Irving has three screenplays in-progress; his 12th novel, Last Night in Twisted River, was released in 2009.

    Irving has won the O. Henry Award and awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1992 Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma and in 2001 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

    Watch Irving talk about the "Writer's Craft" below.

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Yale Professor Stephen Carter to Join Civility Panel

    The Connecticut Forum Announces:
    Stephen Carter to Join Gergen, Buckley and Barreca at
    The End of Civility?
    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Recognized by Time magazine as one of the fifty leaders of the next century, Stephen Carter is one of America’s leading public intellectuals.

    The author of four novels and of seven critically acclaimed nonfiction books on law, ethics and politics, he has been shaping the national debate throughout his career on issues ranging from the role of religion in our politics and culture to the role of integrity and civility in our daily lives. He currently is writing a book on the future of democracy and speaks on “Democracy’s Future: Books or Bumper Stickers,” among other topics. Carter has just published his fourth novel, Jericho’s Fall, a sophisticated, topical, thought-provoking thriller about issues ranging from the morality of intelligence operations to the meltdown of the world financial system.
    And it creates, in Beck DeForde, an unforgettable heroine for our turbulent modern age.

    Carter’s extraordinary fiction debut, The Emperor of Ocean Park, spent three months on the New York Times Bestseller List and has appeared on bestseller lists in several European countries. His other acclaimed novels are New England White and Palace Council.

    Stephen Carter is also a Connecticut local: he is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University. Carter served as a law clerk for two of the great veterans of the civil rights movement, including Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. As a trustee for the Aspen Institute, he moderates seminars for business executives on the role of values in leadership.

    Carter's recent work focuses on the role of human affection in ethical and moral discourse and the intersection between theories of unjust war and unjust law.

    Local Author, Academic and Humorist Gina Barreca Joins Civility Panel

    The Connecticut Forum Announces:
    Gina Barreca to Join David Gergen and Christopher Buckley at
    The End of Civility?
    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Deemed a “feminist humor maven” by Ms. Magazine and “Very, very funny. For a woman” by Dave Barry, Gina Barreca is most recently the author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World. She has appeared on 20/20, 48 Hours, NPR, the BBC, The Today Show, CNN, Joy Behar, and Oprah to discuss gender, power, politics, and humor.

    Her earlier books include the bestselling They Used to Call Me Snow White But I Drifted: Women's Strategic Use of Humor, and Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coeducation in the Ivy League; her books have been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and German. She’s the editor of seventeen books, including The Signet Book of American Humor and The Penguin Book of Women’s Humor as well as The Erotics of Instruction and A Sit-Down With the Sopranos.

    You may recognize Barreca's name from her weekly column in The Hartford Courant, "Irreconcilable Differences". She also writes for the "Brainstorm" section of The Chronicle of Higher Education, blogs for Psychology Today, and occasionally spars with her former co-author (of I'm With Stupid: One Man, One Woman, and 10,000 of Misunderstandings between the Sexes Cleared Right Up) Gene Weingarten in his "Below the Beltway" column in The Washington Post. With degrees from Dartmouth College, Cambridge University, and the City University of New York, Barreca is Professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut.

    Dr. Barreca on her female students and their fear of not dating: