By: Tricia Canavan, Springfield Public Forum Board Member.
I remember seeing posters about the Public Forum’s line up as a young person growing up in Springfield, and thinking that it was amazing that we would have such renowned people, “up close,” right downtown at Symphony Hall. It seemed sophisticated, something you’d see in New York or Chicago – and these events were happening right here in Springfield! As a young person yearning for a “big city” experience where important ideas were tackled, the Forum provided a window into that world.
As a mid-career professional, I still feel this way about the Forum – and my excitement about the organization and the events has been increased by the ever increasing complexity of the world in which we live. To be able to share an hour or so of my time, to hear the perspectives of experts in fields critical to our world, our region and our city along with other engaged members of our community, offers such an oasis of focused learning and thought in our frenetic lives. The interactive nature of the Forum also makes it particularly special – and offers great opportunities not only to bring friends and business associates, but also my kids, to engaging events which makes us smarter – and lead to great conversations and community discourse over time.
I am also really passionate, too, about the Forum Scholars and Forum Thinks programs. These initiatives offer additional programming on Forum topics, through movies, book-clubs and other activities, to support continued dialog and education for all in our region. Forum Scholars, in particular, have unique opportunities to have personal interaction with experts in fields highly relevant to their studies and our world – for a young person, to opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with a Forum speaker, could set them on a new trajectory for their studies or career.
Through this unique, community-based programming, kids have participated in taking apart robots with famed “swarm roboticist” James McLurkin, considered the status of women in poverty with Global Fund for Women Director Kavita Ramdas, discussed the Mars program with NASA lead engineer Steven Squyres and discussed research and medicine with renowned doctor and writer Sidharrtha Mukerjee. Along the same vein, community leaders and residents have discussed education issues with education writer Paul Tough, focusing on the Harlem Children’s Zone model, learned about urban redevelopment in discussion with former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and learned more about China through book club discussions and cultural programming.
The Forum is the vehicle to provide these unique opportunities to our kids and area residents, further cementing the organization’s role as the convener on topics relevant to our lives and community.