By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Dr. William Sheldon, the late M.D. and author-philosopher, once said that as long as there are at least two seeking consciousnesses somewhere in the universe, there is hope.
We live in a little city that is sizzling hotbed of hope, if the eagerness to share “great conversations” is any indication.
“I hope this is the beginning of a great tradition,” said New Mexico State University President Michael Martin, welcoming participants to “Great Conversations,” a Nov. 28 NMSU Honors College benefit that gave participants a chance to have dinner with an expert on their choice of several intriguing topics.
“Universities are about great conversation on important topics. It’s the place where we debate and discuss and wrestle with the issues of our time,” Martin said.
Not much wrestling went on, but we had a very good time at my table, where NMSU professor of music and recording artist Jim Shearer presided and the official topic was “Can the Music Industry be Saved?”
But we didn’t stop with music; my table seemed concerned with saving the entire world. We discussed everything from smart classrooms, sex, religion, and politics to modern musicals, the speed of high-tech evolution, music education and the impact of video games on toddlers. Dinner mates included teachers, philosophers, artists, musicians and a grad student.
We grandmothers can’t have a truly great conversation without mentioning our own greats and I had a good time comparing notes with Sharon Billington, whose 11-year-old triplet grandkids are the same age as my grand, Alexander the Great. We decided the upcoming generation is populated with some remarkable souls.
We all agreed we learned something new, from new perspectives to fun facts. I didn’t know, until Jim told us, for instance, that there are now devices that can almost instantly correct recordings of a singer’s pitch, which must be, to intonation-challenged pop stars, what spell-check is to beleaguered writers.
I saw lots of familiar faces.
“It was a fun evening. There were some bright students and the conversation went all over the place,” said Stephanie Medoff, whose husband, Tony-Award winning playwright and filmmaker Mark chaired “Are Movies, Musicals and Revivals Ruining Contemporary Theatre?”
Tables were dedicated to dozens of discussion topics that ranged from stem-cell research to “The New Testament as Literature” with moderators that included professors, community leaders, former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Delano Lewis and Apollo 17 lunar module pilot and former U.S. Sen. Harrison Schmitt.
The evening, billed as a “chance to bring town and gown together,” according to Honors College assistant dean Jill Grammer, attracted 219 donors and raised over $50,000 for scholarships.
The event may be repeated every two years, or maybe even annually.
I say, the sooner the better.
In the meantime, it would be wonderful if some enterprising restaurant or coffee house could start up a mini-version of “Great Conversations” for lunch or brunch. I have fond memories of an Oregon Mensa group that hosted an informal drop-in luncheon at an interesting old Portland hotel. If I remember right, it was either monthly or weekly and there was a semi-official topic or two that served as a springboard for some amazing notions and great conversation.
There’s something inspiring, in an era of soundbites, text messaging, and interesting but impersonal blogging, about going somewhere with the express purpose of having a profound conversation with one’s fellow beings. Could it be a concept whose time has come — or returned?
¡Viva great conversations!
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Thanks to those of you who wrote in response to a recent column item with a suggestion from Jerry Harrell that we send cards to recovering soldiers. Unfortunately, the address sent by Jerry and others is not valid because mail will not be delivered to unnamed soldiers, due to security issues.
Several of you sent suggestions for remembering our servicemen and women during the holidays.
Frequently recommended is the USO. Their current mission is to bring cheer to those serving on the front lines, “To make sure all 170,000 of these courageous men and women, who won’t be ‘home for the holidays,’ know they have not been forgotten.”
To make a donation, or learn more, visit www.uso.org/donate
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE IDEAS TO ADD TO HOLIDAY CHEER FOR SERVICEMEN
These ideas come from Barbara Kewley, wgo writes:
Today, I went to the official "Walter Reed Army
Medical Center" website, & under "Cards for Wounded
Warriors", this is what I found:
Support A Recovering American Soldier
Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to
remind those individuals who want to show their
appreciation through mail to include packages,
letters, and holiday cards addressed to "Any Wounded
Soldier" or "A Recovering American Soldier" that
Walter Reed cannot accept these packages in support of
the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense
for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was
made to ensure the safety and well being of patients
and staff at medical centers throughout the Department
In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer
accepting "Any Service Member" or "A Recovering
American Soldier" letters or packages. Mail to "Any
Service Member" that is deposited into a collection
box will not be delivered.
Instead of sending an “Any Wounded Soldier” letter or
package to Walter Reed, please consider making a
donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit
organizations dedicated to helping our troops and
their families listed on the "America Supports You"
Other organizations that offer means of showing your
support for our troops or assist wounded
servicemembers and their families include:
http://www.redcross.org For individuals without
computer access, your local military installation, the
local National Guard or military reserve unit in your
area may offer the best alternative to show your
support to our returning troops and their families.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center will continue to
receive process and deliver all mail that is addressed
to a specific individual. As Walter Reed continues to
enhance the medical care and processes for our
returning service members, it must also must keep our
patients and staff members safe while following
Department of Defense policy. The outpouring of
encouragement from the general public, corporate
America and civic groups throughout the past year has
been incredible. Our Warriors in Transition are amazed
at the thanks and support they receive from their