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News Release: Village Square Launches New Season “The Asteroids Club”



VILLAGE SQUARE LAUNCHES NEW SEASON “THE ASTEROIDS CLUB”
Programs to examine six American “asteroids” that threaten our future

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 8, 2013 – Imagine there is a giant asteroid heading to earth, expected to destroy life as we know it. We’d stop the incessant partisan bickering and do everything within our power to deflect the asteroid, right? Like in the movies?

During its 2013-14 Dinner at the Square season, The Village Square examines six American “asteroids” headed directly at us – each a problem that will only grow bigger and harder to “deflect” the longer we ignore it. Stuck inside our feuding partisan tribes, we’ve failed to find common cause against common threats – preferring instead to argue in the public debate about whose asteroid is real; all while the threats continue to build.

This year’s season of programming – which will also include a look at “asteroids” Florida must deal with – is a joint project of The Village Square and Dr. Jonathan Haidt of NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” The Village Square’s unique model of civic engagement continues to draw national attention, recently named by Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations in America seeking to grow political common ground (the only one hometown-based).

The first program of the season – “American Dream Lost?” – will be held on Tuesday, October 15, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown. This discussion will take on the liberal “asteroid” of rising economic inequality and the conservative “asteroid” of breakdown of the family – both data-supported problems that are threatening to damage the fabric of American society. In a time of unparalleled creation of wealth, the spoils of the American dream are increasingly going to the top 1%. At the same time, the family has taken a hit – with 40% of births now occurring outside of marriage. These two trends are highly correlated and worth joint effort.

Panelists include Kay Hymowitz of New York City’s Manhattan Institute and author of “Marriage and Caste in America,” and Dr. Kathryn Tillman of the FSU Center for Demography and Population Health. Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum and Richard Albertson of Live the Life, a faith-based organization devoted to strengthening marriages and families, will also join the conversation.

In association with this program, The Village Square and the United Way of the Big Bend are partnering to host “A Virtual Experience of Life on the Edge” on Tuesday, October 22, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church. This event is a unique, interactive activity that allows people to experience the day-to-day realities of those living in poverty and provides an opportunity for us to discuss how our community can work together to address the problem. Pre-register for this free event online at www.uwbb.org.

“The Asteroids Club” season will continue through the school year with other asteroids, including entitlement spending, climate change, money in politics and moral behavior. Season tickets are available through October 15. For more information, visit www.tothevillagesquare.org, call 590-6646 or email info@tothevillagesquare.org. A limited number of scholarship tickets is available. To learn more about the Asteroids Club project go to www.asteroidsclub.org.

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New York Times: Two Classes, Divided by “I Do”



If you haven’t read this New York Times article about the intersection of the two American “asteroids” we’re talking about on Tuesday, October 15th – rising economic inequality and falling marriage rates/rising out-of-wedlock births – it’s time to read it now.

And we hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, October 15th (one week from today) for “American Dream Lost.”

NY Times: Two Classes, Divided by



Chrystia Freeland on America’s founding ethic of equality (and asteroid #1)



plutocratsRising Economic Inequality is tearing at the fabric of American society. The problem is getting worse the longer we ignore it, making it one of the American “asteroids” we’re going to take on this coming year in our season “Join the Asteroids Club” – a state of mind where we agree that we need to work together across the partisan divide on common threats we face. Find information on the season HERE and on the first dinner of the season on October 15th, American Dream Lost, HERE.

Here’s a take on our founding generation’s view on the uniqueness of America’s economic equality in their day, from Chrystia Freeland’s “Plutocrats.”

“The America of the national foundation story, the country as it was at the time of the American Revolution, was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet. That was the proud declaration of the founders. In a letter from Monticello…to Dr. Thomas Cooper… Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“We have no paupers. The great mass of our population is of laborers. Our rich that can live without labor, either manual or professional – being few and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families and from the demand from their labor are able to exact from the rich and the competent such prices that allow them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families. The wealthy on the other hand and those at their ease, know nothing of what the Europeans call “luxury.” They have only somewhat more of the comforts and decency of life than those who furnish them. Can any condition of society by more desirable than this?”

Contrasting American with Britain:

“Now let us compute by numbers the sum of happiness of the two countries – In England, happiness is the lot of the aristocracy only. The proportion they bear to the laborers and paupers – you know better than I do. If they are 4 in every hundred, then the happiness of the country to its misery as 1 in 25. In the United States, it is as of 8 millions to zero or as all to none.”



Faith, Food, Friday: Strangers at the Door (a little reading material)



fff-logoDr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist, moderating Friday’s program “Strangers at the Door: A Conversation on Immigration,” has shared an article to prompt discussion with the God Squad. We thought we’d share it with you too:

“Christians equally committed to God’s word may reasonably arrive at different conclusions on specific aspects of [immigration] issues and their resolution. However, this much is certain: God, in His Word, consistently shows His loving concern for “the stranger in our midst” and directs His people to do the same…”

Read the whole article from Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University online HERE.
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(Remember that tomorrow is the last day for early bird registration rates for this Friday’s program. Get more information and RSVP here.)



Scott Turow Imagining the Future Global Superclass (that may not be that far away…)



“Somebody ought to sit down and think about this because your corporate class are soon going to be a stateless superclass – people who live for deals, and golf dates, and care a lot more about where you got your MBA than the country you were raised in. It’s the Middle Ages all over again – these little unaffiliated Dutchies and fiefdoms flying their own flags and ready to take in any vassal who is willing to pledge their life to the manor. Everybody busy patting themselves on the back because the reds went into the dumper are going to wonder who won when Coca-Cola applies for a seat in the U.N.”

Join us on Tuesday, October 15th for “American Dream Lost.”

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Scott Turow, Pleading Guilty (from Plutocrats, by Chrystia Freeland)



Warren Buffet on class warfare



american-dream-logo-map-500“There’s class warfare all right. But it’s my class – the rich class – that’s making war. And we’re winning.” — Warren Buffet.

(Agree or disagree, you should join us as we discuss rising economic inequality and family breakdown – our first two “asteroids” of this year’s dinner season on Tuesday, October 15th in American Dream Lost?)



News Release: “FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY” BEGINS A THIRD SEASON



NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
October 3, 2013

“FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY” BEGINS A THIRD SEASON
Local clergy and congregations join The Village Square in hosting lunch series

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 3, 2013 – On Friday October 11, a diverse group of local clergy – affectionately known as “The God Squad” – will begin a third year of talking about the topics your mother warned you to never discuss in polite company: politics and religion.

The series began in 2011 in the hope that neighbors breaking bread together could begin to heal the civic division that has so paralyzed our nation, our states and even our hometowns. Seventeen meals later, everyone is still speaking to each other.

People from all faith communities – or those not a part of any faith community – are all invited to participate in these improbable conversations.

The series is hosted by local nonprofit “The Village Square,” dedicated to building community across the partisan divide in order to improve the quality of the civic conversation in America. Organized in Tallahassee in 2006, The Village Square now has a second location in St. Petersburg and has enjoyed national attention as a unique model for civic engagement.

“The God Squad” includes Rev. Dave Killeen of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Pastor Darrick McGhee of Bible Based Church, Rev. Betsy Ouellette of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel and Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church.

For its first topic this season, “Faith, Food, Friday” takes a look at the divisive issue of immigration – now languishing in Congress – from a fresh perspective in “Strangers at the Door: A Conversation on Immigration.” Joining them will be guest panelist Mark Schlakman of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. The program is on Friday, October 11 from noon to 1 pm at First Baptist Church (108 W. College Avenue) with lunch available beginning at 11:30. Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church will moderate.

Other topics for the year include “After the Trayvon Martin Case,” “Faith and Capitalism,” “Restorative Justice: Rethinking the Role of Forgiveness,” “When Religion Becomes Violent,” “Gender and Faith,” and “Character in America.” The location varies each program and is posted online.

All Faith, Food, Friday forums are free and open to the public. Lunch is available for $8 if you RSVP by the Tuesday ahead of the program and $10 with a late reservation or at the door – all lunches are paid cash or check at the door. You may also bring a brown bag lunch. For a menu, more information or to reserve your seat, go online to http://wiki.tothevillagesquare.org/x/e4Df, call 264-8785 or email fff@tothevillagesquare.org.

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The Atlantic: Our dinner speaker Kay Hymowitz on why the left has trouble talking families



Hymowitz_KayWe’re excited about our October 15th dinner program, “American Dream Lost.” Here’s a snip from an article from The Atlantic about why it’s hard for the political left to talk about the breakdown of family, featuring observations from our dinner guest, Kay Hymowitz. Learn more about the program and reserve your seat by clicking here. Also check out the entire dinner season HERE.

According to Kay, “it’s like stable marriage and community are the secret sauce of economic well-being that nobody on the left wants to admit to using.”

So if liberals are so worried about economic inequality, why not talk about stable marriages? “Liberals have been at the forefront of challenging all sorts of tradition as being oppressive,” Hymowitz said. “That included the sexual revolution, feminism, and, of course, the gay revolution. Because the left is so identified with those themes, it becomes very difficult to propose that the break-down of the family has not worked very well, particularly for those groups the left professes to be most concerned about”

E.J. Dionne agrees with Kay and turns it around on conservatives focused on family but not apparently seeing related liberal concerns: “My shorthand is yeah, if you care about social justice, you’ve got to care about families. But if you care about families, you’ve got to care about social justice.”

From The Atlantic:

The problem is not that people on the left don’t find family or values important. It’s more that language, history, and ideology create political hazards, rendering family issues almost impermissible in the public sphere. As Robert Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, put it, avoiding family issues is a survival tactic in the face of deeply divided political camps. “If I’m a politician or organizer… on the left, it’s not so much a principled censorship, but a pragmatic avoidance of the issue to keep the conversation less mired.”

Read the entire article in The Atlantic HERE.



Starting today, keep an eye on the sky (the Air Force won’t be…)



Sequestration Asteroid

From Fox News:

“The Air Force says it can no longer afford to scan the sky for extraterrestrial threats that could doom the planet, all because of the sequester cuts Washington forced on itself when it failed to rein in the exploding national deficit. Called the Air Force Space Surveillance System, it’s “critical” to defense, the Air Force has said. By October 1, they’ll have to pull the plug.”

Apparently the extraterrestrial threats include about 1,000 asteroids large enough to “potentially unleash global catastrophic devastation to the planet upon impact.”

Kind of a big deal, yes? From this bit of asteroid news you probably shouldn’t expect much of a reaction from our elected officials. Last spring, when one asteroid actually did hit earth and one closely missed us on the same day, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) asked NASA chief Charles Bolden what NASA would do if a large asteroid was expected to collide with earth in three weeks.

“The answer to you is, ‘if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.’ The reason I can’t do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off.”

So break out the space suits, America, and give Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck a heads up. Looks like we’re on our own again.



Starting today, keep an eye on the sky (the Air Force won’t be…)



Sequestration Asteroid

From Fox News:

“The Air Force says it can no longer afford to scan the sky for extraterrestrial threats that could doom the planet, all because of the sequester cuts Washington forced on itself when it failed to rein in the exploding national deficit. Called the Air Force Space Surveillance System, it’s “critical” to defense, the Air Force has said. By October 1, they’ll have to pull the plug.”

Apparently the extraterrestrial threats include about 1,000 asteroids large enough to “potentially unleash global catastrophic devastation to the planet upon impact.”

Kind of a big deal, yes? From this bit of asteroid news you probably shouldn’t expect much of a reaction from our elected officials. Last spring, when one asteroid actually did hit earth and one closely missed us on the same day, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) asked NASA chief Charles Bolden what NASA would do if a large asteroid was expected to collide with earth in three weeks.

“The answer to you is, ‘if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.’ The reason I can’t do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off.”

So break out the space suits, America, and give Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck a heads up. Looks like we’re on our own again.



From Twain’s “The Gilded Age”



Join us for a discussion of rising economic inequality in our Dinner at the Square season kickoff “American Dream Lost?” Tuesday, October 15th. Get more information HERE.

“In America nearly every man has his dream – his pet scheme – whereby he is to advance himself socially or pecuniarily. It is this all-pervading speculativeness which we tried to illustrate in “The Gilded Age.” It is a characteristic which is both bad and good for both the individual and the nation. Good, because it allows neither to stand still but drives both forever on to some point which is ahead, not behind nor to one side. Bad, because the chosen point is often badly chosen and then the individual is wrecked. The aggregation of such cases affects the nation and thus is bad for the nation. Still, it is a trait which is – of course – better for a people to have and sometimes suffer from than to be without.”



From Twain’s “The Gilded Age”



Join us for a discussion of rising economic inequality in our Dinner at the Square season kickoff “American Dream Lost?” Tuesday, October 15th. Get more information HERE.

“In America nearly every man has his dream – his pet scheme – whereby he is to advance himself socially or pecuniarily. It is this all-pervading speculativeness which we tried to illustrate in “The Gilded Age.” It is a characteristic which is both bad and good for both the individual and the nation. Good, because it allows neither to stand still but drives both forever on to some point which is ahead, not behind nor to one side. Bad, because the chosen point is often badly chosen and then the individual is wrecked. The aggregation of such cases affects the nation and thus is bad for the nation. Still, it is a trait which is – of course – better for a people to have and sometimes suffer from than to be without.”



Louis Garcia: On Dan Pallotta and new thinking in non-profits



pallotta_headshotIt started with a simple, “Thank you”.

It always makes me smile when I meet someone who contributes to the local United Way campaign. I wanted to share my smile, and thank the woman scanning my groceries that I appreciated that she participates in the United Way annual campaign, and that I’m delighted she believes in improving the quality of life in Tallahassee. Unfortunately, the “Thank you” went unnoticed, and she passionately grunted that, “It is too bad the CEOs take too much money for their salaries”. That set me off. . . as usual.

This type of thinking has also inspired a nationwide movement led by a brilliant man named Dan Pallotta, and his book, “Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential”. Dan Pallotta spoke in Tallahassee recently on September 10, to a packed Goodwood Manor Carriage House crowd. His message was well-received by a diverse audience of social profit leaders, entrepreneurs, university faculty, college presidents and other smart Tallahassee professionals.

I hope Dan’s message sparks dialogue and debate throughout all business and educational circles. I was inspired to not shy away from a healthy debate in the grocery store line as way to educate others in the vicinity about the fallacy of thinking that a CEO in the human services industry shouldn’t be rewarded for his or her talents. It’s absurd to force talented leaders to have to choose between doing well v. doing good. The CEO of a large business in Tallahassee, overseeing over $7M in donations such as the United Way of the Big Bend, very well should be compensated for management of this large organization. Wouldn’t YOU want the most talented person managing the funds and the campaign that invests millions of dollars in improving the quality of life in Tallahassee?

As a community we need to recruit, retain, and support the most talented leaders to manage public and donated dollars with maximized benefit and impact. There shouldn’t have to be an expectation of personal sacrifice to want to advance the social profit and quality of life of where we live. We have BIG dreams to make positive change in people’s lives. We are inspiring. We are smart. We create thousands of jobs. Stop telling us, “you don’t deserve to be paid what you’re worth”, you should sacrifice to help others, or you shouldn’t hire the most talented people to advance our quality of life. That’s irresponsible and bad business.

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Louis Garcia, CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend