Selected Work by Carolyn Stegman
Carolyn Stegman writes for The 50+ Network for Creative Engagement, a coalition of more than 40 organizations representing the non-profit, public, and private sectors of our community. Her work is published in the local Daily Times newspaper. An archive of works by Carolyn can be found on www.delmarvanow.com. For more information on the 50+ Network for Creative Engagement, visit www.macinc.org
PACE is a model of community leadership
In an era of much political posturing and incivility, one local organization stands above the fray — PACE (Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement) at Salisbury University. Placing a high value on dignity and respect, PACE supports civil discourse even when addressing controversial issues about which people feel passionately.
PACE teaches that democratic deliberation is a healthy, participatory dialogue of engaged citizens, and is a valuable alternative to verbal intimidation and contentiousness between factions.
In accomplishing its mission to serve the region as a non-partisan “public square” for ideas and debate, most PACE forums and events are open to the public, and many 50-plusers take advantage of this opportunity.
“This institute is about learning how to become politically engaged within your community at any level and becoming a leader in any environment,” said Managing Director Leah Reynolds.
“Change does come from civil discourse, civil polite discourse involving honest, straightforward opinions and communication of facts. At its core, civility requires respectful engagement: a willingness to consider other views and place them in the context of history and life experiences.”
With this in place, PACE forums tackles many topics, from the rise of the Tea Party to the ethics of poverty, and from registering to vote to the issues surrounding gay marriage. In the forum on gay marriage, held before Maryland’s landmark election, people on both sides of the issue discussed their views. Some in the audience were strongly opposed, others strongly in favor.
Some were there to help themselves decide. What was remarkable was the civility of the evening— discourse, civil discourse, not finger pointing, not name calling, not attacking, not denigrating others. The same atmosphere was found in other forums: Maryland Dream Act, civil rights in Maryland and the relationship of Congress and the executive branch on the military and foreign policy.
Getting older is not simultaneous with dropping out, and many people over 50 want to stay informed about a variety of issues affecting our lives. We are finding that PACE is not just for students, but is a gem in our midst for all — a place to learn and foster informed decisions.
PACE reaches out in other ways. In November, it teamed up with UMES and community organizations to provide a box filled with a hearty Thanksgiving meal to more than 600 local families in need. Community members and students packed each box, demonstrating the kindness of strangers, diverse in age and beliefs, yet working together to give back.