Annual `Last Best Hope' lecture on tap at Hildene
Brian Dubie and Sue Minter to speak on democracy, civic engagement
MANCHESTER, Vt. — When President Abraham Lincoln faced the crisis of a dividing nation heading for war, he reluctantly and boldly took action to keep the union together.
Today, citizens increasingly feel the pressure in their everyday lives of a more caustic political environment. And the spirit of Lincoln, through the work of Hildene, the Lincoln family home in Manchester, has been working toward addressing ways to bridge these civic gaps in its annual "Last Best Hope" lecture series, inaugurated in 2014. The current installment will take place on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 25.
The speakers of "Last Best Hope," who engage with audiences, seek to answer seminal questions surrounding the desire to unite, rather than divide citizens, according to Hildene's president, Seth Bongartz.
"Lincoln well understood that democracy is always fragile and its preservation will always require those willing to struggle for its success," Bongartz said. "Hildene's `Last Best Hope' program is designed to inspire all of us to recommit to engaging in our democratic institutions."
This year's lecture will feature a bi-partisan duo: Sue Minter and Brian Dubie, both well-known to Vermonters for their civic engagement and ability to reach across the political divide throughout their careers — to find solutions and common ground with their opponents.
Minter, president and CEO of Special Olympics Vermont and a former state representative and secretary of the Agency of Transportation, was the Democratic candidate for Vermont governor in 2016. Dubie, a captain for American Airlines and strategic adviser to growing companies, was the Vermont lieutenant governor from 2002 to 2011 and a candidate for Vermont governor in 2010.
Minter and Dubie — who both lost their gubernatorial races — will discuss the meaning of participation, the very personal cost of defeat and, most importantly, why democratic processes and engagement matter.
Both speakers seemed to call forth Lincoln's own words: "action over apathy in order to make the world a better place."
Dubie said that there are always times in nation's history that call for an emphasis in discourse. He suggested that this is one of those times, and that the institution on which this country are founded is worth the effort.
"History provides a valuable perspective," Dubie said. "In the bleak winter of 1862, in the depths of our Civil War with the survival of the republic in question, President Lincoln stated, `We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.' One hundred fifty later, while mindful of our many challenges, I agree with Lincoln that America is still the `last best hope' of earth.'"
Minter concurred with her one-time opponent, with whom she often worked together to reach common goals.
"A vibrant democracy depends upon engagement by citizens with a broad range of perspectives, whether participating at Town Meeting, serving on the school board, or running for statewide office," Minter said. "I look forward to sharing ideas with students and the public about the future of our democracy and why it is never too late, or too early, to get involved."
Stephanie Moffett-Hynds, Hildene programming director, alluded to Minter's mention of students as a key element of the Last Best Hope initiative.
Moffett-Hynds said that, in the morning before the Last Best Hope lecture, both Dubie and Minter will meet with students from various classes at Burr and Burton Academy concerned with contemporary issues and government. The school session will involve one combined group, with students moderating the discussion, and questions and issues identified ahead of time.
"For instance, one question could concern the role of government in everyone's lives in the broader sense, one could concern a state or local issue, and one could involve a national issue," Moffett-Hynds said. "An example of a local issue might be how to achieve school safety and the role of sensible gun regulation."
The evening program will commence at 5:30 at Hildene.
Bongartz, who will moderate a discussion with both speakers before the audience asks its own questions, praised both Minter and Dubie as models of "why Americans must take seriously their obligation to engage constructively in the processes required for a vibrant democracy."
Bongartz also heralded the spirit of Lincoln, himself, in how the Last Real Hope program "is one step in the right direction" to helping a concerned citizenry makes sense of today's more challenging political environment.
"As Lincoln cautioned, `Only we can preserve democracy,'" he said.
If you go ..
What: "Last Best Hope" lecture
When: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 25
Where: Hildene, 1005 Hildene Road, just off of Vermont Route 7A, Manchester
Information: Free and open to the public. Seating is limited and reservations are strongly recommended: email Stephanie@hildene.org or call 802-367-7960. Visit www.hildene.org.
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