Antrim

Great Discussions kicks off another season of talks

Salon-style group meets weekly to become better informed on foreign policy, share thoughts and talk nonpartisan politics

  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.

    A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.

    A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.

    A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.

    A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.
  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.
  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.
  • A group of Antrim residents meet at the Tuttle Library to discuss and debate ongoing government and foreign affairs related topics, as part of a series of talks called Great Decisions.

ANTRIM — The Great Decisions forum is back for its third season this spring. Each week, a group of Antrim residents meet to discuss foreign policy topics and their affect on the United States, for the sheer benefit of becoming more informed and learning new perspectives.

At the first informal discussion last Wednesday, eight interested individuals gathered at the James A. Tuttle Library after hours to watch a brief movie and discuss defense technology. Following the model of the classic salon-style environment, the only goal of the Great Decisions program is to create well-informed citizens, Steve Ullman said in an interview on Thursday.

This spring marks the third run of the Great Decisions program at the James Tuttle Library in Antrim, a program organized by Steve Ullman and his wife Marsha. The Ullmans first learned about the Great Decisions program three years ago when they heard that the Hancock library was hosting the program, Marsha Ullman said. Steve Ullman, who graduated with his doctorate in political science at the University of Minnesota and taught political science at State University of New York — Brockport, decided to host the same program in Antrim.

Steve Ullman said many people are not interested in foreign affairs, unless something has great domestic impact in the United States. He said traditional studies show that only five to ten percent of citizens regularly monitor foreign affairs. But the Antrim group, whether for personal or intellectual reasons, is an interested group, he said.

“A lot of us see connections with our daily lives with what happens overseas,” Steve Ullman said. His interest in political science motivates him, but other individuals go because of the ties to the military, he said.

“You get a better understanding of how the world works and how connected everything is,” program member Beth Merrill of Antrim said in an interview Monday. “It’s a big world but yet its not. Nobody’s opinion of how U.S. interacts with other countries can be simple because it’s a complicated.”

Merrill said she would encourage others to go. The way the material is presented in the manual doesn’t encourage a lot of disagreement, she said.

“It’s an interesting group, it’s an interesting discussion,” Ron Haggett of Antrim said in an interview Monday. You have to be interested in what the world is doing, Haggett said, to be involved in the discussion.

Haggett believes that knowledge about foreign affairs is important with helping to answer questions about decisions the U.S. government makes. “Does something work? Does [the government] know what they’re talking about? Is what’s being done successful?” Haggett said.

The discussion among the group was civil on Wednesday and Haggett said this is because the topic is not about Democrats or Republicans or ideology. “It’s about foreign policy,” Haggett said.

Upcoming topics include Israel and the U.S., Turkey’s Challenges, Islamic Awakening, Energy Independence, food and climate, China’s Foreign Policy and U.S. Trade policy.

Great Decisions is a national program about the foreign policy challenges which confront our country, Steve Ullman said. The program follows a manual with short articles to read before each informal discussion. Each week, a different group member leads the flow of discussion with no set goal except to become better informed and listen to different opinions.

Before each discussion, the members will read the articles relating to the topic at home. On Wednesday, Steve Ullman lead the first discussion and chose to begin the talk with a short film. The film provided background information about defense technology the government used in recent years, and continues to use.

Besides asking the group, “What do you think?” Steve Ullman stirred up discussion with straightforward questions or statements, and the group would break the comment up into different aspects and discuss it.

Questions like, “So drones are good without any downsides?” motivated comments from the entire group about how they really feel about the subject at hand. Right away, members chimed in with comments about the lives lost in drone strikes worldwide.

When Marsha Ullman lead a discussion during a previous program session about oceans, she felt overwhelmed because there was so much involved with one topic.

“I’m finding out more about what’s going on in the world,” Marsha Ullman said in an interview Monday.

As you’re reading and discussing these topics you come up with so many insights, she said, “you hear about things on the news in little blurbs all the time, but [the program] shows how complex these situations are.”

The manual provides facts and figures, she said, not just an opinion. “You just learn a lot and you always have to question,” Marsha Ullman said.

The group is still accepting new members. If someone wishes to attend just for one specific discussions, Marsha Ullman said that option is available as well. Residents or locals should attend if any topic interests them.

She mentioned that the group invited ConVal High School students to attend the discussions but none were in attendance on Wednesday. “Honestly I think a younger person would find it fascinating,” Marsha Ullman said.

The program will run weekly at the library with the last meeting to take place on May 29. The next discussion is scheduled for Thursday, April 17, about Israel and the U.S. All discussions start at 6:30 p.m. either on a Wednesday or Thursday.

Those interested can call Steve Ullman at 588-2005, or go to the antrimnh.org web page for more information. Manuals can be purchased from the Foreign Policy Association by calling 1-800-477-5836, or a couple copies are available for rent at the library.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.