Community Conversation Focuses on Democracy at Warner Library

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by Robert Kimmel – 

What is the meaning of democracy, what are its origins, and how is it practiced in the United States, and other countries across the globe? How does it affect you, as an American citizen? These are just a few of the questions that will be discussed during a “Community Conversation” at the Warner Library in Tarrytown, Wednesday, April 17, beginning at 7:15 p.m.

Warner Library and The Hudson Independent are jointly presenting the Conversation involving a panel which will examine democracy’s origins, its status and challenges. Audience questions will follow the presentation.

“Warner Library is excited to partner with The Hudson Independent to have a conversation about democracy,” said Maureen Petry, the Library’s Director. “It is important to set some time aside and think about what it means to live in a free society and how that can be preserved in an ever more complicated world.”

The occasion is enabled by a micro-grant from Humanities New York whose mission is to “strengthen civil society and the bonds of community, using the humanities to foster engaged inquiry and dialogue around social and cultural concerns.” Community Conversations are one of its methods to have people, “discuss the role democracy plays in their lives as members of local, national, and global communities.”

The persons composing the panel have keen understandings of history and how our democracy was formed. Jessica Hunsberger is Chair of the Social Studies Department at Sleepy Hollow High School. She has been a teacher there for 24 years, and taught AP courses in government and politics for 20 years. She majored in political science at Colgate University and participated in the Washington Study Group, whose student members attended federal government activities including congressional sessions.

Upon request, Ms. Hunsberger has selected a high school student member of Rho Kappa, the National Social Studies Honor Society, who is currently in the AP Government and Politics Class for the panel to get a youthful perspective.

Teaching at Dobbs Ferry High School for the past 27 years, Richard Hoffman has educated nearly 2000 students about American history, government and economics. He runs the school’s voter registration drive, and is co-coordinator of the Senior Internship Program. Hoffman has frequently volunteered as a canvasser and researcher for national and local election campaigns. He holds an A.B. degree from Harvard and a master’s degree from Indiana University.

Another local panelist, Matthew Ives has taught European and World History to students at the Masters School for 22 years and was the head of the Masters Upper School for five years. He did his graduate work in history at the University of Maryland, and his dissertation research for his master’s degree was on the emergence of democracy in rural France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ives related that he “has been very much involved in my school’s efforts to encourage civil discourse in an incredibly polarized time politically.”

Long time Tarrytown Historian Richard Rose is another member of the panel. Rose was also a past President of the Historical Society Inc., serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. As an educator,  Rose also taught both at the high school and college level for 45 years, and was a department chair, and continues to teach at  the Collegium  Program at Westchester Community College.

Neil M. Maher, an Irvington resident, teaches environmental and political history on the undergraduate and graduate levels as an associate professor of history in the Federated History Department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Newark. He received a Ph.D. from New York University, following graduation from Dartmouth College. He is the author of two books and has received awards for his work on conservation history. He has also lectured widely on the subject. He has served on the graduate faculty for the Ph.D. program in history at Rutgers University.

Representing Hackley School will be Christopher Loomis who teaches U.S. History and 20th Century World History to Upper School Students. He earned his B.A. in History from Harvard, an M.A. from the University of Virginia and served there as a teaching assistant in history. He has also taught history and journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon, Georgia.

Moderating the panel will be Barrett Seaman, Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Hudson Independent. Seaman was with Time Magazine for 30 years, serving at five bureaus in the United States and abroad. During the Reagan administration, he reported for Time from Washington. He also served as Special Projects Editor at Time before retiring in 2001. Seaman has also authored two books and appeared on many radio and TV shows.

Attendance is free; all are welcome to attend and join in the community conversation.

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