September 30, 2018
On October 8, the University of New England hosted a moderated conversation titled “What About Guns?” as the next installment in The President’s Forum, an event series of moderated panel discussions, debates and other highly interactive presentations on controversial issues. The event was sponsored by UNE and the Make Shift Coffee House, a nonprofit organization that facilitates dialogue and understanding among people from across political spectrums.
The forum, which was moderated by Craig Freshley, founder of the Make Shift Coffee House, will feature special guests State Sen. Eric Brakey (R), Senate chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and State Rep. Charlotte Warren (D), House chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, who discussed the role of guns in contemporary American society. Audience participation was encouraged, and throughout the evening, Freshley encouraged the panelists and audience members to share their personal experiences and viewpoints, and to engage in meaningful dialogue with one another.
UNE President James Herbert, Ph.D., who launched The President’s Forum in March, was thrilled with the turnout of students, faculty, professional staff and community members, and he applauded the vigorous and lively discussion that took place. “The President’s Forum does not aim to promote any specific ideology or stance,” he said. “It’s about providing an opportunity for people with diverse perspectives to come together, share their views on the pressing issues of the day, and maybe come to a better understanding of opposing viewpoints as well as their own beliefs.”
“The subject of guns and gun control is one of the most divisive topics of our time,” he continued. “It’s important for people on both sides of the issue to discover other perspectives and to examine the things within ourselves that shape and inform our own opinions.”
Herbert said that the forum, like the event series in general, is an embodiment of the special responsibility held by universities to provide an arena for the community where differing ideas and opinions can be addressed without instilling fear of rebuke or ostracism. “In a world where the political divide is growing and where civil discourse is eroding – where debates on social media are increasingly mean-spirited and polarized – this is a face-to-face forum where people with different political views can talk and listen to each other in the spirit of mutual respect,” he stated.