Letter: A welcome place for healthy dialogue

Posted 9/15/22

To the editor:

Walking into the small room on the first floor of the library to a full house reminded me how much I have missed the free to all Bosworth Lecture Series. I have had the pleasure …

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Letter: A welcome place for healthy dialogue


To the editor:

Walking into the small room on the first floor of the library to a full house reminded me how much I have missed the free to all Bosworth Lecture Series.

I have had the pleasure of attending quite a few over the last few years where I have heard enthusiastic presenters speak about subjects close to their hearts. Bird counting, the unique history of the Mt. Hope Bridge and its place in the world of suspension bridges, art and esthetics, an interesting story about world exploration of the Fulton family to name only a few.

Some folks may yawn at these topics, but to sit among others from our community learning about some little nugget of life I barely glanced at prior makes my heart sing. We sit with each other as eager students to learn about something obscure we may not have considered before the lecture, and we leave feeling like the short hour was of value.

I was eager to attend last night’s presentation on free speech and civil discourse by Howard Sutton. I wasn’t starry eyed enough to think that the well prepared and engaging Mr. Sutton would be there to solve the demise of civil discourse. His presentation on a troubling topic these days however was a bright light as I sat among friends I adore yet have very differing opinions on politics and social issues. It surely gave me hope that it is possible still be friends or friendly with people that I don’t always agree with. This is certainly something I learned from my grandfather and my dear friend, Ros Bosworth, Jr. We can disagree, we can argue without yelling, and we can still share a glass of wine and break bread together.

Free speech has become costly because of the dumbing down of our news sources. Mr. Sutton pointed out the significant reduction of newspaper journalists in recent years, the news deserts in our country where there is simply no local news outlet. Our children now get most of their news from social media and think it is fact without understanding that its notion of free speech is every man for himself. No discipline or rigor to prove or disprove sources, to edit or omit because of faulty information; our children and often their parents fail to point out the harmful differences.

Recently a few of us with very differing views decided to meet monthly and share our differences of opinions. We call it “Finding Common Ground.” We are fully aware we will not change each other’s minds on controversial topics such as abortion rights, Black Lives Matter, book choices in schools, music lyrics and of course politics in general, but that is not our point. Our point is to make sure we can carry on with each other as human beings first, practicing healthy engagement and discussions without hate and voice raising.

Free speech is a lot different when it is eye to eye as opposed to typing your opinions in the privacy of your living room and hitting the send button without ever meeting the person or people you are targeting.

What the Bosworth Lecture Series does for me is make me think a little deeper about topics I didn’t consider as deeply before. What Howard Sutton’s stellar presentation did last night was remind me to keep writing, keep talking, and most importantly to keep looking into the eyes of people I disagree with and be sure to shake their hands agreeing to disagree in harmony and hope that they can do the same.

Alayne White
11 Constitution Street

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.