A seven-part biweekly reading and discussion program gets underway Wednesday evening inside the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, during which participants will explore the meaning and responsibilities of being an American in the 21st Century.
The series, "American Politics and Community Today," will use historic writings as well as fiction based on historic events to spark conversations about the roles and responsibilities of citizens, as well as understanding fellow citizens who come from different backgrounds and points of view.
Stanton Hudson, executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, says the biweekly series will cover topics that were important to the late president and are covered in other programming at the downtown Buffalo facility.
"We focus today on the issues of immigration, and urban poverty, race and social inequities, environmental conservation, big business and labor, and the U.S. role in global affairs," Hudson said.
Dr. Sarah Handley-Cousins, who is facilitating the program and discussions, says the series was planned weeks in advance and does not seek to focus on specific individuals or ideologies.
"Instead, it's more about larger issues," she said. "Why do we give certain people authority? How do people gain authority? How have we talked to each other about certain issues? How do certain groups fashion themselves in America and how does that sometimes come at the expense of other groups?"
Selections, according to Handley-Cousins, will include works by E.L. Doctorow, Hannah Errant and Ralph Ellison. The discussion to follow, she told WBFO, could be uncomfortable at times but that would serve to grow mutual understanding.
As the facilitator, she will not allow it to take on the ugly tones that dominate discussions in social media.
"I'm going to break up any grudge matches that take place," Handley-Cousins said.
Hudson, who also teaches about media literacy and public relations at Buffalo State College, noted that
many Americans speak freely and frequently about their rights at citizens but less about their responsibilities. This program seeks to change that.
"It seems to me that one of the purposes we're fulfilling with this programming is to hopefully create more informed citizens," Hudson said. "Roosevelt was all about citizenship. An informed citizen is a better citizen."
The program is financially supported by Humanities New York and is free to the public. However, registration is required because spaces are limited. Individuals interested in signing up or learning more about the series may contact the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site at (716) 884-0095 or by emailing Lenora Henson at email@example.com.