A new organization is convening Friday night for its first public gathering and hopes to bring together a variety of people and viewpoints.
The inaugural “Civil Conversations Fayette” event is Friday at 6:30 p.m. and the group has rented a meeting room at 174 N. Glynn Street for the first 100 people who sign up. There is a $22 cost for a catered meal provided by Broadway Diner.
The purpose of the meeting is “to bring the community together to discuss important issues,” according to a statement. “We can have a good time, a good meal, learn new things and, if necessary, we can agree to disagree, politely.”
The special guest for the program is Dr. Duke Pesta from the University of Wisconsin. He will be talking about Common Core educational standards.
According to Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown, one of the event’s organizers, it will not be a lecture or a presentation on the traditional sense. Instead, as the name of the group suggests, it will be a conversation.
Brown said in an interview last Friday that he will sit down and talk to Pesta, who is not a supporter of Common Core, and play devil’s advocate when necessary while keeping the conversation going. When they are finished, any audience member can ask a question as long as it is civil.
“If they don’t think I’ve asked all of the right questions, it will be their turn,” said Brown.
Speaking about the event during his regular comment time at last week’s Board of Commissioners meeting, Brown said this type of gathering was something he had thought about for several years.
“One thing that always bites at my craw a little bit is we can’t get certain groups in the same room together without starting a fire,” he said. “You just get too much friction going.”
He joked a couple of times that if he was not seen again after Friday, “you’ll know it didn’t work out.”
Brown acknowledged that there has been a bit of criticism for having an anti-Common Core speaker and no alternative, but he said the group tried to find someone to give another perspective but everyone who was approached either was not available that night or simply declined the invitation.
“Sometimes we need to listen to people who don’t necessarily share our ideas,” he said. “Then we can take those ideas and maybe they change our opinion, or you walk out feeling the same way you did before.”
Brown said the initial response has been good and the group is already planning a second meeting in Peachtree City to cover a different issue.
“It’s just a bunch of groups that are coming together,” he said. “We’re trying to bring together diverse groups and diverse opinions into a room and see if we can all understand each other. If nothing else, you’ll get a great meal.”
A link to an online reservation form for the event can be found on Brown’s Facebook page.
Brown quoted one of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” when summarizing the overall goal of the meeting: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
“If we can do that in Fayette County, we will be so far ahead of everybody else and we’ll get a lot done,” he said.