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Coursework that Worked - An Assignment that Turned into a Thank You Letter

The following piece was written by Nick McNamara to fulfill a course assignment when he was a student in Dr. Wanda Minor's 2011 course titled Social and Public Deliberation.  The piece is being reprinted here with permission from both Dr. Minor and Nick McNamara.

Social and Public Deliberation Reflection

by Nick McNamara

I remember signing up for the section PR-498-51 entitled social and public deliberation.  I can honestly say that I did not have any idea what the course entailed.  Maybe it was the name of the course or the time slot of the course, but something compelled me to register.  So I just decided to take a shot in the dark and hoped that I would enjoy the class and learn something at the same time.  After receiving the required readings from the bookstore, I made the grave mistake by judging the course by the book covers.  I skimmed the abstracts and let my preconceived notions take over my thought process.  I thought to myself that I was about to enter a world of political rhetoric and bland functions of policy makers.  What I did not know was that my viewpoint of this course would be radically different than my preconceived notions.

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Journalism as a Democratic Art - Essays by Cole Campbell

Journalism as a Democratic Art, a new collection of essays by public journalism pioneer Cole Campbell and edited by Tony Wharton, is now available from Kettering Foundation Press. Campbell, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 53, was an acclaimed journalist as well as a longtime Kettering colleague. Each piece in the collection expresses Campbell's belief that "people expect the press to help their communities solve problems." As one-time editor of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, and then the Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, Missouri, Campbell worked to align his profession with that belief, often facing considerable resistance from other journalists. Campbell's essays address a variety of subjects, including a partly-finished dictionary for journalists; timely essays written in the months after Hurricane Katrina and 9/11; and an interview by Jay Rosen, longtime professor of journalism at New York University.

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The Making of a Public by Craig Paterson

from a blog post by Craig Paterson at Deliberative IDEAS

We all have a place and a role in the ‘public.’ This appreciation of an all-inclusive participation in a shared, human environment goes back at least to the Greeks as they pondered their common good and civic purpose. The Greeks had already recognized that an awareness of a ‘public’ as an entity in its own right…larger and more significant than just the accumulation of disparate individuals. Those of us who seek to hear the voice of the ‘public’ today are challenged with all the classical barriers to public conversation AND some modern barriers that are presenting themselves for the first time in human history.

The ‘public’ exists and functions without our awareness…it doesn’t need anyone’s permission to be powerful. But…our awareness and appreciation of the ‘public’ CAN have some significant benefits…as we solve problems together, as we organize together to maximize our effective use of resources, and as we build great communities together. We have learned through the years, however, that this ‘public’ awareness doesn’t happen by itself…it requires its own careful attention.

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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


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 ( 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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