Senior Center, Library Launch Discussion Group on World Affairs

Cynthia Whitty
Issue Date: 
March, 2018
Article Body: 

The Ashland Senior Center and the Friends of the Ashland Public Library are hoping to launch a Great Decisions Discussion Program at the Ashland Library late March or early April.
Great Decisions is a national discussion program on world affairs sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association (, a 100 year-old organization based in New York City. They held their first discussion group in 1954. Based on face-to-face, active and informal conversation, participants read a fact sheet on topics before meetings, view a DVD at the meeting, and then discuss their views.
“The idea for a Great Decisions Discussions Program was brought up last year at an intergenerational programming training,” Kim Kotob, senior center coordinator, said. “At that time, representatives from many organizations and groups in Ashland were learning how to implement intergenerational programming in our town. Together, we began throwing out ideas and advice.”
“The topic of life-long learning was brought up as something that some would like to see more of at the Senior Center. Ashland resident Gretchen Bravacos mentioned that she and her husband are part of a group at the Wayland Library. Bravacos asked if I would like to sit in one of the meetings to see what it was about. Steve Mitchell and I went to a meeting on Afghanistan,” Kotob said.
“We learned about it [the Great Decisions Discussion Program] from a friend we met at one of the Life Long Learning courses co- sponsored by Framingham Library and Framingham State University,” Bravacos explained. “We have been participating in the group that meets at the Wayland Library for about three years. We enjoy learning about topics of global importance. We get a better understanding about what is going on in the world in an unbiased format. The articles are written by experts in the topic and the DVD is always very professionally done.”
“I believe most of us are trying to stay educated and keep our minds sharp, and this program helps with that,” Kotob noted. “The program helps us expand our knowledge, helps us to stay in touch with what is going on in world. The topics are current. In the Wayland group, I observed everyone sharing their knowledge, thoughts and concerns in a respectful way. I am sure not everyone agreed with each other, but they listened intently.”
This year’s topics are: The waning of Pax Americana?, Russia’s foreign policy, China and America: the new geopolitical equation, Media and foreign policy, Turkey: a partner in crisis, U.S. global engagement and the military, South Africa’s fragile democracy, and Global health: progress and challenges.
So far, Kotob has three potential program facilitators for an Ashland group. She’d like to keep the group to 15-18 members.
“Participants will read an article pertaining to the topic for that meeting; a facilitator will preview the DVD in advance of a meeting. Some [facilitators] will do a little research on the topic and provide extra articles they found themselves,” Kotob said.
To help facilitate or participate in a group, contact Kim Kotob at the Ashland Senior Center, 508-532-7955.