We feel so fortunate to have been approached by local high school student Madeleine Ghavati a few months ago about a unique project to bring Smithereens together.
The basic concept of Smithers Talks — based on a German online newspaper’s My Country Talks initiative — was to match people of opposing political views through a survey so they could have one-on-one conversations and possibly reach some common ground.
After my initial conversation with Madeleine about her desire for bringing Smithers Talks to fruition and looking at the Ted Talk from ZEIT Online Editor Jochen Wenger, it convinced us that this was definitely something our community needed.
From that point through several more detailed conversations with Maddie, Sara Cooper and the My Country Talks team, over the ensuing months, the event came to life.
Sara’s patient facilitating of the questions, technical assistance and gentle prodding to ensure we were making the public ever more aware and Maddie’s mature organizing of and enthusiasm for the event combined with our role as the media sponsor, produced what was a unique opportunity for understanding and personal growth in Smithers.
Apart from being media sponsor, I participated in the project and was enlightened by the talk I had with my counterpart.
It led me to a broader understanding of some of the issues here in Smithers and their effect on my guest in the conversation.
It changed my point of view, which in these divided times, I know makes me a better, more compassionate citizen.
We have received similar feedback from other participants and there were a lot of them. Sara said it was “definitely one of the most engaged events we had all year.”
And we’ve already had people asking about when the next round will be.
We are still not sure about that, but the success of this round was certainly encouraging.
It was an opportunity I would encourage anyone to participate in, more than once if you get the chance.
-Grant Harris, Publisher