Event Date : 05/02/2018

The Salisbury Forum: A local treasure with international reach

There is a long tradition of civic connectedness in the Northwest Corner. It could be that the town meeting system of government, which has pulled together communities over generations when important decisions have had to be made, contributes to that. In Salisbury, this sense of open discourse as an important part of everyday life has found expression through a unique regional organization with a long history: The Salisbury Forum.

The forum is supported by a connected populace, but also by the private schools that flourish and affect the life of the mind here. The area’s culture is more than it would be without these schools, The Hotchkiss School and Salisbury School, and The Salisbury Forum is the beneficiary of their influence and financial support. The Moviehouse in Millerton and Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village also host a number of the forum’s events.

One can look through old Lakeville Journals and find references to a historic iteration of Salisbury Forum talks, but the current organization has been bringing speakers of wide expertise into the area to enlighten us for 13 seasons. The most recent talk was given at Housatonic Valley Regional High School Friday evening, April 27, by journalist and author Ray Suarez. (See story by Patrick Sullivan this week.) His presentation took in the large subject of the fight over what the “Next America” will be, and how to be ready for it. He did not disappoint. 

Suarez’s expertise in the study of race, religion and social trends in the United States informed a fascinating and profound assessment of where we’ve been and where we’re going as a nation. Both his talk, and the Q & A that followed, left those who attended better informed and, surely, more curious to look into reading his books. Suarez’s research for those books (which take on urban/suburban migration, the affects of religion on voters and the contributions to America of Latino Americans over 500 years) give him a depth of knowledge that he holds at his fingertips, that is an integral part of all he believes and can share with an audience. He did so eloquently and with an infectious sense of humor. 

He is not the only speaker The Salisbury Forum has brought into the area who so engaged his audience. Anyone who reads Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker, for instance, then went to see his talk last season at the forum, found themselves drawn into his world and greatly appreciative of the opportunity to see him in person. And the renowned constitutional legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar, professor of law and political science at Yale, has spoken twice, developing a devoted following that would look forward to another opportunity to see him here.

The forum has given the region its own version of the TED Talks, where speakers can share their knowledge and hear the responses of their audiences in real time. In a moment when such discourse comes at a premium, the talks are free to the public. Everyone in the area should take full advantage of this resource, support the forum’s mission and thank the volunteers who run it.