Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Forum Report: America's Role in the World

What Does National Security Mean in the 21st Century? A Deliberative Discussion of America’s Role in the World

What does “national security” mean in the 21st century? And how do we, citizens of the United States, think our elected leaders should go about securing our nation? Does the answer lie in strengthening the military or balancing the budget? Or perhaps it’s a question of our active participation in a global society – working with other countries to find collaborative solutions to issues like overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, global warming, pandemics, and food shortages. On Sunday, March 29th moderators Jill Severn and Jan Levinson, leaders of the Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia, led a community forum on the issue of "America's Role in the World: What Does National Security Mean in the 21st Century" - part of the Life and Legacy of Jeannette Rankin Program Series. Each program in this event series explores the ideas and issues that Ms. Rankin devoted energy to during her lifetime; certainly, the role of America in a global society was a question she considered during her years as a member of the U.S. Congress, as well as in her life as an active citizen who traveled widely.

Severn began the discussion by asking the audience to fill in a blank: the best path to national security is____? The attendees slowly began talking about what America is and is not, and perceptions of the United States held by those living outside its borders. One participant admitted, quite plainly, that in his opinion the United States is a bully and that is a perception held by many countries around the world. Others offered that the United States should be a place that supports diplomacy and democratic ideals, and that as a nuclear power it is seen as a protector for other nations. Some agreed that America’s reputation has changed in the world community drastically in recent decades and that it is often thought of as a country that perceives itself to be superior to other countries and is resistant to listening and learning from other cultures. When prompted to return to the question of the essential components for ensuring national security, the crowd brought a variety of issues to the table, but they all seemed to feel that the essential question went beyond a discussion of national defense or international trade policies and into the deep bipartisan rift that now divides Americans and American politicians. They agreed that the media plays a role in cultivating this rift, as well as creating a heightened sense of insecurity.

The three approaches outlined by the issue guide were as follows:

Approach 1: National Security Means Safeguarding the United States
This approach suggests that our global objective must always be to maintain the safety of the United States and its citizens. We must give national security the highest priority and recognize that terrorism and unstable nations are our greatest threats, while not ignoring conventional threats either.

Approach 2: National Security Depends on Putting Our Economic House in Order
With such significant economic issues facing us, we need to focus on eliminating our staggering public indebtedness and improving the balance of trade. This means spending less on the military and reducing the amount of money that flows overseas.

Approach 3: National Security Means Recognizing that Global Threat
Today’s challenges face everyone on the planet, not just one nation. We must take a leadership role in working with other nations to address long-term threats to humanity: nuclear proliferation, environmental devastation and climate change, pandemics, overpopulation and food shortages, and the depletion of natural resources.

To read more about the discussion participants held on this topic, CLICK HERE for a full report.

In keeping with the theme of the Life and Legacy of Jeannette Rankin series -- the forum closed with some words from Jeannette herself. Margaret Holt, one of the founding mothers of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, offered a few words about Ms. Rankin’s stance against isolationism in the wake of World War I. She read a speech that Rankin delivered in 1929, which asserted that the United States did not exist in a vacuum and that in the current time period issue was a global issue. The speech roused clapping from attendees, who seemed amazed at the relevance of commentary written more than eighty years ago.

The final event in the Life and Legacy series will take place this coming Wednesday, March 31st from 5:00-6:30 PM at the Zell B. Miller Learning Center on the UGA campus. The event, titled "Workplace Justice Then and Now" will be a panel discussion led by Dr. Bethany Moreton (UGA Dept. of History, Institute for Women's Studies) and Dr. Pamela Voekel (UGA Dept. of History). The panel will discuss ongoing efforts for just wages, benefits and working conditions in the United States. To learn more about this program visit the Russell Library website, or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Forum Report: The New Science of Food

Latest RFCLG informal forum on the New Science of Food: Facing up to Our Biotechnology Choices

The Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia hosted its monthly informal forum on Friday, February 19, 2010 at 3 p.m. at the Russell Library on the UGA Campus. A group of students, faculty, and staff from the University of Georgia, as well as some members of the Athens community, gathered to deliberate the challenging topic of food safety and related issues using the National Issues Forums guide, The New Science of Food: Facing up to Our Biotechnology Choices published in 2003. With the Georgia Organics conference happening at a nearby venue in Athens, it seemed like a great time to take up this challenging issue.

To begin, forum participants shared some general experiences and perspectives related to buying, growing, and eating food today in the U. S. Although almost everyone in the group said they paid some attention to the nutritional information labels on packaged food, most also expressed concern that the labels were often hard to interpret. One person raised the example of “natural flavorings” as an ingredient listing that appears in many processed food labels. He explained that natural flavorings in strawberry yogurt often include ground up bug bodies that provided coloring to the product and that, really “natural” as a descriptor was meaningless. Another participant also noted that the food labels don’t address how the food was produced and where it was produced—factors that can have a huge influence over the cost, safety and environmental impact of a given product.

The lack of clear labeling of food served to amplify forum participants’ concerns that much of the mainstream food supply contains a startling array of chemicals and unhealthy ingredients. There was strong consensus among participants that with the rise of allergies to peanuts and other foods, clear informative labels are essential. One forum attendee also expressed particular anger over the television commercials in favor of using high fructose corn syrup. Another participant reminded the group that the notion of biotech foods is not a new concept and in fact farmers and the food industry has been employing chemicals and technology to improve crop yields and extend the shelf life on food for many years. He also pointed out that at the same time, organic approaches to food production are also not new ideas.

There was a general consensus that awareness of food safety and issues related to overall sustainability are becoming a growing concern in many American communities. At the same time, with the economic decline in recent years, many people find purchasing organic food—which typically costs more than regular food—challenging to afford. The forum participants agreed that economics on micro and macro levels would determine food choices for Americans and, in fact, people around the world in the years to come as costs of production rise in relation to the cost of petroleum. According to one participant, low fuel prices and government subsidies enable Americans to afford produce out of season that is trucked in from all over the world. If these costs rise, then people may find organic or locally grown food affordable in comparison.

Another factor that influences American eating habits tremendously is advertising sponsored by the food and restaurant industries that emphasize cheapness, quickness, and convenience to an American audience that perceives itself to be overworked, strapped for cash, and too tired to cook.

The group moved from this overview of perspectives on food to consider each of the three approaches outlined in the issue guide. Click HERE to read the group’s deliberation of each approach and its closing thoughts.

Post by Jill Severn, Director, Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia

Monday, March 22, 2010

Passive Pacifism

At this week’s Life and Legacy program Dr. Joan Hoff, a noted research professor of history at Montana State University, expounded on Jeannette Rankin’s lifelong commitment to pacifism. An occasional commentator on the presidency for the "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," and former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, Hoff proved to be an engaging speaker with great insights into Jeannette Rankin’s formative years in her native Montana.

She began by addressing a question asked frequently thought the series (and by the founding mothers of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation) -- why do most historians often omit Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, when discussing the history of women in politics? Hoff mentioned a few reasons for the omission during her talk:
  • Many of Rankin’s personal papers were opened to the public by her brother in the late 1950s. With very limited supervision, access to the papers was abused and individuals absconded with much of the personal correspondence -- thinking that the signatures of Rankin’s contemporaries would prove valuable and easy to sell.

  • Hoff submitted that many historians focus on women activists from the east coast, where the suffrage movement originated. She suggested that there may have been some resentment toward Rankin because she was from a western state, many of which succeeded in winning suffrage before their counterparts in the east.

  • She further submitted that Rankin’s vote against entry into World War II may be another strike against her in the history books. Although Rankin had a strong commitment to pacifism and her anti-war platform resonated with Montana voters upon her re-election to Congress in 1940, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent events made her stance increasingly unpopular. Though Rankin knew she was committing political suicide when casting her vote against entry into the war, she hoped that fifty years later historians would see the value in her action. It seems, however, that they have yet to reconsider the action, seeing it as one which casts Rankin as a “kook” rather than a woman full of courage and conviction.
Answering more questions after the talk...
Our speaker went on to provide an overview of the circumstances of Rankin’s upbringing, education, and entry into politics. She gave a balanced view of the woman, not shying away from a discussion of some of Rankin’s flaws and political missteps. Further, Hoff was able to shed some light on to how Rankin’s actions connected with her ideals – for example, her advocacy of preferential voting. Dr. Hoff submitted her own categorization of Rankin’s commitment to peace as “passive pacifism” - and contributed some brief stories of her own involvement in protests for women’s rights (and other causes) during the 1970s and 1980s. The audience was captive for the hour-long talk and jumped in with numerous questions following
the presentation.
Representatives from UGA's Institute for Women's Studies

Dr. Joan Hoff will give the keynote lecture for the UGA Institute of Women’s Studies celebration of Women’s History month TODAY (March 22nd) at 3PM in the UGA Chapel on North Campus. Entitled “Too Little Too Late: Changes in the Legal Status of U.S. Women” the talk will tie into the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month – “Writing Women Back into History” – and will be followed by a reception and book signing in Demosthenian Hall.

Some men who appreciate Women's History!

The next event in the Life and Legacy of Jeannette Rankin Program Series will take place on Sunday, March 28th at 3PM in the ESP Room of the Oconee Public Library. Moderators Jill Severn and Jan Levinson will lead participants in a deliberative community forum on the topic of America’s Role in the World. For more information, please visit the Russell Library website or call (706) 542-5788.

To see more pictures of the event series CLICK HERE!

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Informal Forum (3/19/2010): Weighing the Options

The Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia (RFCLG) is hosting National Issues Forums on a monthly basis at the Russell Library. Our next informal forum will take place this Friday, March 19th from 3:00-4:30PM in the Russell Library auditorium.

This month's deliberative forum considers approaches to encouraging healthy weights among America's youth. More American children are overweight today than ever before, and the numbers keep rising. Their excess pounds can trigger major health problems, ones that are likely to worsen as they grow older. Obesity takes its toll on society as well, costing $75 billion per year in the U.S. in medical expenses alone. How can we begin to address this growing problem?

Using the National Issues Forums Institute's guide, Weighing the Options: How Can We Encourage Healthy Weights Among America's Youth?, the group will consider several approaches to tackling this complex issue. Trained neutral moderators will guide the discussion. The event is free and open to all. More information is available by contacting Jan Levinson at 706-542-5788. For more information about Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia, visit www.libs.uga.edu/russell/rfclg.

How to Find the Russell Library: The Russell is located on the bottom floor of the Main Library building on UGA's north campus. Follow the path down the right side of the main library building (the west facing side) and down the stairs to access our door!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Championing Election Reform

This past Sunday, March 14th, the second event in the Life and Legacy of Jeannette Rankin Program Series went off without a hitch at the Athens Clarke County Public Library.

The afternoon began with introductions from JR130 Committee Members (and Rankin Foundation founding mothers) Heather Kleiner and Reita Rivers. Yet another founding mother, Susan Bailey, served as the moderator for the event. She introduced the panelists and provided some commentary about Jeannette Rankin’s beliefs and work in election reform during her lifetime.

Bailey recalled for the crowd Rankin’s tireless work in favor of women’s suffrage in her home state of Montana and how her early reputation and penchant for leading grass roots campaign efforts led to her own campaign for the U.S. Congress in 1916. Rankin's successful election to the body made her the first women elected to the United States Congress; though not until 1920, with the adoption of the 19th amendment, did women throughout the United States win the right to vote. Bailey described Rankin’s interest in preferential voting and multiple-member districts, ideas that were thought unachievable in her own lifetime but now hold greater potential with the adoption of computerized voting systems. Our moderator then introduced the program panelists and allowed them each time for brief presentations, followed by questions from the audience.
  • Dr. Paul-Henri Gurian, Professor of Political Science at UGA, provided an overview of various voting systems, including preferential voting. He ably described the differences between the systems and how each type can affect the overall outcome of an election. Further, he commented on Electoral College reform and how such reform would impact campaign strategies in U.S. elections.
  • Dr. M.V. Hood, also a Professor of Political Science at UGA, provided a quick talk on collected in recent studies examining why people vote when they vote. These studies explore the impact of recently expanded early- and advanced-voting options available to voters in Georgia.
  • Allison Bracewell-McCullick, who served as Special Projects Coordinator under Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox (1999-2002), offered some stories from her practical experience. Bracewell-McCullick played a significant role in voter education efforts across the state as Georgia adopted electronic ballots. She gave some interesting insight into the high rate of voter error experienced in the state during the 2000 Presidential election, and described how increased education efforts were able to drastically reduce the error in the 2002 election.
Following the program, presenters and attendees adjourned to delicious refreshments, courtesy of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation (and facilitated by the indefatigable Susan Bailey). In total, we had a headcount of attendees! Next week the program series will return to the Community Room at the Oconee Public Library for a talk from historian Joan Hoff at 3PM.

For more information about the program series, visit the Russell Library website, or connect up on Facebook or Twitter, or give us a good old fashioned phone call at (706) 542-5788. Hope to see you at next week’s event.

Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

Kalosyne Day!

My colleague Jill Severn and I received a tremendous honor on February 24, 2010. Our friend, colleague, and frequent collaborator Margaret Holt named us recipients of the 2010 Kalosyne Award. Upon receipt of this award, we thought it fitting to spread the word about this international day of celebration started by Margaret and her husband, Stell Kefalas.

What is Kalosyne Day?

Pronounced Kalo-sin-ay, the Greek word means “doing good works." Established in 2004, Kalosyne Day is an international day of celebration recognizing the good works of others. “Often people we know do good work that goes unnoticed, unrecognized,” says Holt, “Kalosyne Day will mark the day you recognize such an individual or individuals.” Holt and Kefalas suggest that anyone can participate and recognize worthy individuals through a charitable contribution in their name, a day of volunteer service, or simply by sending a card of acknowledgment – however public or private recognition may be is completely at the discretion of the nominator. “Our world is much too full of greed, consumption and arrogance,” writes Holt in her overview of the award “...we want to encourage a transformation to a world more full of sharing, giving, and humility. We can begin by recognizing more intentionally those in our midst who do good works.”

Margaret generously bestowed this honor on the two of us in recognition of the projects and programs we support through our work at the Russell Library and the Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia. To receive this recognition from such a tireless and giving volunteer is quite an honor indeed! In tribute to this inventive day and its creative co-founders, we hereby spread the word - long live Kalosyne Day!

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Digital Collection

In its new digital collection, American Turpentine Farmers Association Minute Books, 1936-1999, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies offers a glimpse into the pine gum turpentine and rosin farming industry.

Prior to the 1960s, pine gum was processed into rosin and turpentine, along with a variety of other by-products, making it vital to the economy of the Southeast, particularly Georgia. At one time, the United States produced 53% of rosin and turpentine worldwide. Today, only two working turpentine stills exist in the U.S., both in Georgia, one located in Hoboken and the other in Tifton at the Georgia Agrirama, State Museum of Agriculture. Many people do not realize that the turpentine business was a major influence not only on the national economy but on the way of life in the South's turpentine belt (Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas). This industry’s slow demise, which began in the 1930s, spurred a group of passionate and dedicated turpentine workers to create a cooperative, the American Turpentine Farmers Association (ATFA), which lobbied for the revival of the gum naval stores industry.

This project developed out of a request by current ATFA President James L. Gillis, Jr., who was interested in duplicating and preserving the organization's four surviving minute books. Subsequently, ATFA and the Russell Library agreed to the creation of a web site that would ensure public access to the books. The Russell Library collaborated with the Digital Library of Georgia to develop a digital collection that provides online access to over eight hundred pages of the organization’s board of directors meeting minutes, which document over sixty years of ATFA history.

The American Turpentine Farmers Association Minute Books, 1936-1999 digital collection is available online at http://russelldoc.galib.uga.edu/atfa/. The site is full-text, keyword searchable and is browsable by year.
Post by Abby Griner, Access and Electronic Records Archivist, Russell Library