Brown Bag Chat: A Look at the Knox County Great Decisions Community Discussion Group

Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 12:00 pm

Are you interested in learning more about American foreign policy, but are not sure where to begin? Would you be interested in joining a diverse group of interested people to work together on learning more and discuss issues concerning the world today? Then plan to attend the first meeting of the newly formed Knox County Great Decisions Community Discussion Group on Monday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, 201 N. Mulberry Street.

 

The first topic of conversation and film will be “The Koreas.” A summarized version of the program will be held at the Brown Bag Chat “A Look at the Knox County Great Decisions Community Discussion Program” on Wednesday, September 21, noon, at the main library. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided in two. The northern half of the Korean peninsula was occupied by the Soviet Union, the southern by the United States. Today, North and South Korea couldn’t be further apart. The North is underdeveloped, impoverished and ruled by a corrupt, authoritarian government, while the South advanced rapidly to become one of the most developed countries in the world. With such a wide gap, some are asking if unification is possible, even desirable, anymore.

 

Developed by the Foreign Policy Association (a national, independent, nonpartisan, non-governmental and nonprofit educational organization), the Great Decisions Discussion Program is the oldest and largest grass-roots world affairs educational program of its kind in the United States. The program brings millions of Americans together in study groups to discuss, debate, and learn about foreign policy issues. Each year FPA publishes "Great Decisions," a Briefing Book and a related DVD with PBS programs on eight foreign policy issues as the basis for these discussions.

 

How does it work? A Great Decisions discussion group is composed of interested individuals who want an opportunity to learn about and participate in the foreign policy decision-making process. Participants consider discussion groups a “safe environment” because they provide everyone who wishes to do so with the opportunity to speak.  Each participant’s point of view carries equal weight and everyone is encouraged to share opinions and ideas. Consensus is not a goal. Discussion group participants do not attempt to “convert” participants, because there is a mutual respect for each member’s experiences, value system, and beliefs. The true focus of the Great Decisions discussion group is the critical examination of all issues and opinions; each recognized as equally valid.

 

After attending a program in Arizona last year, Penny Rauzi, retired educator and local program coordinator, thought Knox County would be an ideal place to form a Great Decisions group.

 

I was impressed with the depth of information the book and speakers shared.  The reading and sharing at the meetings helped me form a fuller picture of the issues whether they were in Europe, the Middle east or the Far East,” she said “ [They] filled in the historical background for me and simultaneously provided a close-up picture of contemporary events as well.”

 

“As a community we have three institutions of higher learning with untold faculty expertise to draw on.  Several  of our local industries have employees who have either lived in or regularly traveled to far flung nations,” Rauzi said. “What if we were able to engage these experts in conversation with local citizens? Wouldn't we all benefit from a deeper understanding of the issues our nation and leaders face?”

 

Copies of the 2016 Great Decisions discussion book are available at the library prior to the program. Excerpts will be available during each program. The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call the main library at 740-392-BOOK (2665) Ext. 243, visit www.knox.net or email [email protected]

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