Public library to host Big Idea Talks

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WALLA WALLA — The seventh generation, sustainability, public art, punishment, Latinos and the future of food.

Each of these topics inspires big conversation, big debate and, soon to come, the first Big Idea Talks sponsored by Whitman College and the Walla Walla Public Library.

“It’s a way to bring different groups into the library, not necessarily to talk about academics, but for talks that are of public interest,” Big Idea Talks moderator Julia Ireland said.

The six-series program of guest speakers is funded through a Humanities Washington grant; three take place this spring and three next fall.

The first talk on March 28 will feature Whitman College environmental humanities professors Don Snow, who will discusses the Iroquois tradition of seventh generation planning.

Other Big Idea Talks will look at issues like the effects of the State Penitentiary on the community or the state-of-the-state for local Latinos.

But while the focus at the talks will be local, each topic is also one that has national or even global impact.

“A lot of it came about because there are a lot of professors on the Whitman campus that are doing research both globally and locally,” Library Director Beth Hudson said.

In spite of being only a few blocks away from the city library, the separation between academia and the larger community tends to be more like a chasm. And one of the other goals of the Big Idea Talks is bridge the gap between the two.

“These (professors) are people who are just as interested in the community. This is where we live. This is where the children of our faculty go to school. So there is a deep concern about the community,” Ireland, who is also Whitman philosophy professor, said.

So when Don Snow kicks off the first Big Ideas Talks on seventh generation planning, the idea will also be to connect better with the neighboring community by coming to the common ground of a community.

“We thought this would be a bridge to community issues ... I think having it in the library is one of the most important things about it. And the faculty are very excited and supportive,” Ireland said.

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