AXIS OF HOPE … The Telluride Mountain School (TMS) hosted a most amazing program last week – one that even drew a contingent of Telluride Public School kids under the leadership of High School Principal Alex Carter. At TMS’s Monday morning meeting, Carl Hobert, founder and director of Axis of Hope <www.axisofhope.org>, gave a fascinating account of his group’s work training youth for conflict resolution through role-playing and visits to at-risk countries. Seventh-graders through high-schoolers spent the day role-playing negotiations among the various sides over the conflict between Tibet and China, analyzing their experiences. As Hobert explained, “By allowing students to participate in open, honest discussions about complicated world issues, they learn essential conflict resolution skills that will last a lifetime. In addition, students learn to see peace as an architectural process that involves discussion, negotiation, refinement and agreement.” The workshop culminated in a peace proposal letter from the students involved that is being sent to Sec. of State Hilary Clinton, who makes a point of having her staff review and respond to these letters on conflicts from Rwanda to Israel/Palestine. Far from simply theoretical game-playing, students get to understand on a deep level the nature of conflicts, and get to actually provide real input to our national leaders … And for those deeply motivated by the experience, there is a Peace Abroad Expedition to some international hot spot, where they can experience some of the conflict positions first-hand … According to TMS students Sara Friedberg and Alexa Posner, the day-long workshop was “cool. We knew nothing about the Tibet-China conflict. We learned a lot about that and about negotiations techniques.” Hobert broke the class into six groups – U.S. government, Chinese government, ethnic Tibetans, Chinese living in Tibet and people of India. Students were given case studies of the positions of each of these groups. Having read the packet the night before, the groups met two at a time for three sessions of negotiating to arrive at some mutually agreeable positions. Then, the next half of the day was spent having each of the groups send one representative to one of five issue groups to hammer out a negotiated settlement proposal – issues including education, religion, governance, and human rights. Each group had to fit their compromise proposal into two sentences of 50 words each. The final 250 word statement on those five issues was the letter that was then sent to Sec. Clinton … Both Friedberg and Posner thought the workshop was immensely educational and fascinating. “I wish we could do more workshops like that on other topics,” added Posner … As a minor elected official in an area without any armed conflicts (although some highly verbal ones), nevertheless, I told Hobart at TMS Monday morning that his program was exactly what was needed to help teach our kids about heading off wars before they start. What better place to begin to teach conflict resolution (with real world outcomes – like the letter to Sec. Clinton) than in our schools.
MORE HOPE … My friend Lawrence de Bivort gave the third in series of lectures at the Wilkinson Library this same week, Crafting a Desirable Human Future. Lots of hope in the air locally even as the national and international scene seem more hopeless day by day. Nevertheless, I can’t do justice to Lawry’s insights this week … So expect a capsule summary in a column to follow.
AVATAR … Since I’ve never been to the Egyptian Theater in Delta, and that was the closest movie house offering the film phenom Avatar in 3-D, I drove my son and two of his buddies to Delta for the matinee last Saturday ... Opened in 1928, the 750-seat movie house was designed by architect Montana Fallis (this is not a porn novel, and I’m not making this up) who also designed the landmark Mayan Theater on Broadway in Denver. Famed for its Art Deco Egyptian style, the Delta theater was registered on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1993 and completely renovated in 1996 … Speaking of hope, it gives me great hope to see such widespread popularity for an anti-military movie about Gaia consciousness in the midst of a nation at war. Everyone I’ve talked to has heard about it, seen it and/or liked it (a lot). The special effects are dazzling. The story line tugs at your heart. And the good guys win in the end. It’s a winning combo … But more than that, it’s a serious blow to the military culture that’s developed with the two long wars that we’ve been forced (some would say tricked) into fighting in the Middle (and Far) East … I think Avatar is a symptom of war fatigue and a growing disenchantment with American foreign policy, whatever party is at the helm … And on a personal note, I found myself “talking” to trees on my evening dog walk in Norwood. I’m wondering if that will become a lasting habit in Avatar’s wake.
FALL BABY … I made it back from a political meet in Denver in time Friday to hear my new fav dance band at the marvelous Turn of the Century Saloon in Montrose – Fall Baby <http://fallbaby.com>. Lead guitarist is a buddy of mine, Doug Allee, and a wizard he is, riffing off licks for each and every song – many of them originals. Robert Fords plays the sticks, and sings lovely vocal harmony behind lead singer and rhythm guitarist Helene Cassarini. Bassist Melanie Kent rounds out the gender-balanced foursome … They got cooking. Folks of all ages were up and dancing. And it was a just past perigee full moon night – great music at one of the best dance venues in the region. Check out the band and the Saloon as soon as you can!
THE TALKING GOURD TC \l1 "
George Tsongas passed away in San Francisco at 81. San Francisco Weekly named him Best Non-Beat Poet of 2008. He was a fixture in the Bay Area scene since 1945, living through the heyday of the Beats, but dismissive of many of them for their inflated egos. He was a co-founder of that legendary hippie rag, the San Francisco Oracle. Jack Mueller of Log Hill Village was a fellow habitué of Café Trieste, where Tsongas hung out. He sent me some words about Tsongas, but the computer ate my cat and that email, so Jack’s epitaph for this interesting man may have to wait a bit.
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