Next Think Again talk aims to discover solutions to state issues

Michael Hibbard, Ethan Seltzer and Bruce Weber got together several years ago and decided Oregon’s three largest universities ought to do more to address the state’s problems. This led to the publication of “Toward One Oregon” in 2011 and the recent launch of a discussion tour with the Oregon Humanities Con­ver­sation Project.

“It’s all about the divide between urban Oregon and rural Oregon and how there’s sometimes some misconceptions about people on the other side of the urban or rural divide and how are these ex­pressed and how do we deal with that in productive and healthy way,” said Ca­leb Thurs­ton, Che­ha­lem Cultural Center programming coordinator. “We have two gentlemen who are going to come and talk about that.”

As a part of the CCC’s ongoing Think Again discussion series, Hibbard from the University of Oregon and Seltzer from Portland State University, will present “Toward One Oregon: Bridging Oregon’s Urban and Rural Communities,” March 20.

“Newberg is unique in that we find ourselves in the middle of this frequently because we have this legacy of being a rural area but more and more as we grow and the metropolitan area grows, we’re becoming a suburb,” Thurston said. “That’s OK with some people and difficult for others.”

He said the topic fits into Newberg and its evolving status, and should explore how the city can bridge the gap between the urban and rural areas while keeping its own identity.

“The purpose of the conversation really is just to explore the issue of di­vide in the state and why those are getting in the way of solving problems,” Hib­bard said. “We’re not there to say what the solutions are, we’re there to get people in the community to talk about them.”

The trio of authors alternates pairs as the tour stops in different communities. Hib­bard said its been well accepted.

“Of course I’m biased, but I think they’re going really well,” he said.

Seltzer said it’s been interesting to see where each conversation goes.

“Whether or not there is an urban/rural divide, the most important thing for people to understand is we want them to come to participate, not to come and expect to be lectured,” Seltzer said. “And each one of the presentations has really kind of taken its cue from issues of the greatest concern to the people who joined us.”

Annie Kaffen, program officer for Oregon Humanities, said this conversation is one of about 20 they have to offer, but it’s becoming fairly popular, especially with nonprofit organizations.

“I think this is a topic people across the state are very interested in, intrigued by and struggle with,” Kaffen said. “This is a real challenge.”

Thurston said based on similar discussions in the past, he thinks this upcoming topic will be well received.

“It is similar vein of topic (to past discussions) of really digging into our civic identity,” he said. “There’s definitely stakeholders we want to bring into the conversation, but I think it’s a good conversation for anybody who has invested in Newberg and what they want Newberg to become. Whether they’ve been here for 40 years or just moved here or are a commuter, the conversation is always evolving dependingw on who is a part of it. That is really what’s fun about these conversations.”

The discussion will begin at 7 p.m. March 20 in the lobby of the cultural center.

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