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Where do I start? At Peace Village, of course. (part 1)

September 30, 2008 at 6:50 am

It’s the eve of a new year, according to the Jewish faith. A time to clean the slate and make a fresh start. We’re lucky. We get to do this once a year. So if we screw up, we’re encouraged to get it right the next time. Kind of like an annual do-over.

I can’t think of a better way to face my new year than attending the Images and Voices of Hope Annual World Summit * this past weekend which ironically was located in a former geographic haven for Jewish family vacations. Maybe in addition to the amazing people at the summit were the souls of some of the great tzadiks. Who knows.

All I can say is that it felt like we were being stroked and coddled in the lap of the Catskill Mountains while our minds danced in some of the most stimulating conversation I’ve experienced.

Peace Village is the name of the place where the summit was held. It’s full of peace as it’s a full time retreat center run by what some refer to as “angels on earth.” The hosting organization is The Brahma Kumaris affectionately known as the “BK’s.” I’ll let you read about them with my links but whenever I have to describe who they are, I call them peace missionaries. And, the distinction that I love to share about this spiritual group, which spans around world in over 80 countries, is that it is run by women, has been for decades.

I think that’s divinely unique. Uniquely divine.

So, ok, Kim, get to the summit.

The theme: Engaging Our Audience: Effecting Change in Ourselves and the World. The participants: around 100 of  the most brilliant and creative journalists, artists, musicians, documentary filmmakers, photographers from around the globe, and yours truly.

We gathered to do what the IV of Hope folks like to do best. Examine the vast realm of communication and how we might positively affect it. This doesn’t mean just telling nicey nice stories and closing our eyes to the sadness and horrors of the world. It means how can we do it better.

When someone said “we’re among giants,” he wasn’t kidding. Around me were people well known in the media and many who deserve to be.

On Friday, we sat in rotating groups in the exercise of “appreciative inquiry” exploring how we are engaged by the media on a grand scale and in our personal lives. There was a recurrent micro to macro theme weaving through the groups and throughout the weekend.

After the circles of rich conversation came the showcases of the work. I’m talking lump in your throat work. Documentaries about child slavery (Jody Hassett Sanchez), an epic dimension anti-war mural (Huong), songs from an emmy award winning composer (Gary Malkin), environmentally powerful photographs (Chris Jordan) and a host of other amazing stuff.

Then, on Saturday we witnessed Bob Steele, the country’s leading expert on ethics in journalism interview some more giants. There was Maura J. Casey from the New York Times, Renee Ferguson from NBC5 News Chicago, Maude Beelman from the Dallas Morning News (formerly AP war correspondent) , Victor Merina, an award winning investigative reporter and to top it off, Jon Alpert, producer/reporter/co-director and co-founder of the Downtown Community Television Center (known for his years on the Today Show and his current HBO special, “Baghdad ER“) and then…be still my beating heart…Steve Hartman. Yes, the Steve Hartman who, on CBS, throws darts over his shoulder on the evening news at a map, goes to that location, and finds the subject of his next story in the phone book. He’s a rock star to me and often a part of the show that Charles Kurault used to host on Sunday mornings.

Steve Hartman and fan (moi)

Steve Hartman and fan (moi)

We watched the first presidential debate together with people who worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign. My jaw rarely closed.

There was an impressive Saturday night awards program, meditation sessions for ambitious early risers, delicious vegetarian food, all going on inside of a lush landscape of orange, gold and green speckled mountains. There was actually a noticeable change of autumn colors from when we arrived to when we left. Just for us.

Today, I wanted to paint a broad brush of what the summit at Peace Village was like. There was so much going on in our heads, our hearts and our bodies that I’ve still not assimilated it enough to convey more detail. I’m hoping that will happen.

What I did take away from the weekend was something I know has been in short supply for me and surely for the rest of the world.

Hope.

Yes, hope. It was and is so comforting and so inspiring to know that there are many really smart, really talented and hard working people out there that really give a damn. Whose work is about affecting change.

Thank you Judy Rodgers, Meredith Porte, Gayatri Naraine, and Veronica McHugh for inviting me for the last ten years.

I finally made it.

*The mission of IV of Hope:

“To expand awareness of the choices those in media make that raise public trust, generate constructive meaning, and amplify human hope, thus enhancing humanity’s capacity for life-promoting action.”

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Comments (1)

1 Comment »

    I certainly agree that those who attended were some of the most interesting and creative people I’ve ever had the privelege of meeting. Their work was awesome and inspiring, wasn’t it?
    And you are one of the ‘giants’ yourself!
    I hope to talk with you again soon.
    And of course, to see you at the next conversation.
    eli f. bleich

    Comment by Eli BleichOctober 2, 2008 @ 9:26 am

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