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Capitol Hill leaders observe two National Issues Forums held in Washington, DC, December 5, 2011

This post was written by Diane U. Eisenberg

On December 5, 2011, some sixty persons – forum participants and representatives of various Congressional offices and national and state associations – met at the Hall of States on Capitol Hill to address “A Nation in Debt”, a featured issue on this year’s National Issues Forums (NIF) agenda.

Given the size of the group, it was decided to convene two forums in adjoining rooms. Forum participants included delegations from the Legacy Leadership Program at the University of Maryland, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) members from Victoria Falls, Maryland, and a student government class from Montgomery College, Maryland, thereby, adding an intergenerational perspective to the deliberations. One forum was co-moderated by Sharon Simson and Doris Goodlet of the Center for Public Life at the University of Maryland. The other forum was co-moderated by Bill Corbett and Beth Offenbacker, Center for Voter Deliberation of Northern Virginia. Michelle Scott, Montgomery College, served as recorder.

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Deliberation as an Alternative?

(The following is Gerald Ott's response to a guest columnist's piece  titled "One Helping of Irony is now Being Served" in DesMoinesRegister.com.)

Graham,

Nice piece in today's Des Moines Register. Near the end you say "Instead of disparaging those seeking to be heard, those in elected office need to give these throngs a voice by trying to collaborate to improve America’s situation."

On Saturday I attended a forum at the DM Central Library. The seven of us "deliberated" about the national debt, using a moderated process and materials from the Nat'l Issues Forums (www.nifi.org). It seemed the few at the library were collaborating, but the throngs were in the streets. Any thoughts about how the two might get together (along with elected officials)?

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Taylor L. Willingham, 1957-2011, Public Engagement Pioneer

Taylor Willingham

Taylor L. Willingham, a pioneer in the public engagement field and in National Issues Forums (NIF) work, including her service as a National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director, passed away on Monday, September 5, 2011 at her home in Salado, Texas, after a year-long battle with kidney cancer.

During her career Taylor designed, organized, and led numerous public engagement projects; taught university courses online; founded Texas Forums, along with her work with the LBJ Presidential Library; worked in the adult literacy field; and wrote about public engagement, just to name a few of her many accomplishments.

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From Craig Paterson - A Deliberative 'Carpe Diem' Moment

A Deliberative ‘Carpe Diem’ Moment

Posted on August 2, 2011 by Craig Paterson on his blog Deliberative Ideas

Certain moments in history require dedicated and focused attention to critical decisions. I believe we’re living in one of those moments…when deliberative work can be incredibly important for short-term and long-term well-being of our neighbors and our country. This is the moment for which we’ve been prepared in our experiences, our research and studies, and our professional practices. Carpe diem, my friends! ‘Seize the day’ to revive our democratic resilience through thousands of networked, small-group conversations to inform our leaders with the values, hopes and expectations of all Americans.

Last November and again in May, research workshops at the Kettering Foundation focused on how online digital strategies could encourage and effectively network greater public engagement in our most critical political dilemmas. In both of these workshops, we reaffirmed our confidence that great strides have been made in dialogue and deliberation during the past quarter century. We have a remarkably rich and deep deliberative infrastructure in place for in big cities and small towns across the country. Our biggest challenge it seems is to coordinate highly diverse efforts and then to make sense of a huge and nebulous cloud of deliberative data.

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Higher Education

National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director Jean Johnson suggested the following as a possible issue for development into a deliberative framework.  We welcome your comments and additional information about this issue.

I am proposing higher education as an NIF topic because I believe the country faces a number of important choices and trade-offs about its future, some of which involve core values about opportunity and fairness in our country. Although the U.S. higher education system has long been regarded as the best in the world, there are numerous signs that the system is under stress and that large numbers of Americans are asking tough questions about whether the system we have is the system that we need and want.

Here are some of the developments that make this topic so compelling to me.

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End of Life Spending

National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director Chris Satullo suggested the following as a possible issue for development into a deliberative framework.  We welcome your comments and additional information about this issue.

The issue I'd recommend could be named, provocatively, "Do we have a duty to die?"

It's generally agreed that one of the main drivers of government spending and deficits is health care.

It's generally agreed that the most worrisome drivers of government health care spending are Medicare and Medicaid.

A little-recognized diver of Medicaid spending is skilled nursing care for the elderly, infirm poor (and, after some dubious finagling, the middle-class elderly).

A well-known driver of Medicare spending is the heroic, costly and usually futile care given to people who are near the end of life.

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Eating Ourselves Sick

National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director Frank Fear suggested the following as a possible issue for development into a deliberative framework.  We welcome your comments and additional information about this issue.

Food, Nutrition, and Health in Precarious Relationship

Many issues facing Americans today are imposed on them, such as the national macro-economic changes that are affecting families’ economic security. However, every day in this country Americans are doing something to themselves: consuming food—in type and amount—that has negative implications for their long-term health.

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The Growing Gap between the Haves and Have Nots

National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director Bo Beaulieu suggested the following as a possible issue for development into a deliberative framework.  We welcome your comments and additional information about this issue.

Is Income Inequality Harmful to American Communities?

A recent book published by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett titled, The Spirit Level (2009), has created quite a stir in countries across the world. The central premise of the book is that societies or communities that are more equal often do better on a wide array of socioeconomic measures – be they health, education, crime, trust, and social mobility. In essence, people from the same social strata with the same set of qu

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National Issues for Consideration

National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director Scott Clemons suggested the following as  possible issues for development into deliberative frameworks.  We welcome your comments and additional information about these issues.

Racism
With our first black President, our prospective on racism and our sensibilities may have changed. The protracted discussion about the President’s birth certificate, however, suggests that the issue is still ripe for a national conversation. Comments by talk radio personalities and the sudden termination of Shirley Sherrod for supposedly discriminatory remarks give further credence to this.

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A message from David Mathews

The following is a reflection by David Mathews, president of the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio.

From time to time, the Kettering Foundation updates its research or restates its findings to prevent misperceptions of what its studies show. For example, some may mistakenly characterize the kind of public deliberation modeled in NIF forums  as one of several techniques used to facilitate small group discussions or as a tool for decision making unrelated to action or resolving conflicts. Of course, people use the NIF issue books for many different purposes, and that includes those who are only interested in policy education, which is fine. Still, the NIF books are based on a design taken from two sources: how people today actually make collective decisions in the face of disagreements about how to act and how deliberation has been described in many civilizations dating back thousands of years.

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