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Thank yo u for hosting a Co mmunity Conversation !

From New Netherland to New York, immigrants from every part of the world have made their home in our state. Community Conversations invites New Yorkers to explore our shared history as immigrants and the descendants of immigrants, and to discuss the ways that immigration continues to shape the experience of being American today. Each conversation uses a short text as a starting point for discussions about cultural understanding and our roles as active citizens in a diverse and democratic society. Community Conversations provides an opportunity for people to come together for thoughtful discussion and dialogue about their shared values as Americanspast, present, and future. Focused on central themes in American life such as service, freedom and democracy, Community Conversations allows New Yorkers to join in discussions that offer an alternative to received wisdom and provide the chance to take part in a shared national dialogue.
O ve rvi ew Community Conversations are stand-alone, text-based discussions led by a facilitator from the local community. Each toolkit includes a text that tackles an important aspect of American life and encourages community dialogue. Your Community Conversation should last between 60 and 90 minutes without interruption. Discussions should be guided by a facilitator and focused on the text and the theme. Hold your conversation in a room where a group of 10-30 participants can hear each other clearly. Use the tips sheets for host sites and facilitators included in this toolkit for ideas about how to encourage everyone to participate in the discussion. Faci litato r A good facilitator is the key to making a Community Conversation successful. The facilitator should be someone in your community who enjoys working with people, is interested in what others have to say, and believes in the merit of conversationbased programs. The facilitator does not need to be someone with an advanced degree in the humanities, but rather someone who has some experience leading open conversations and who is enthusiastic about learning how to facilitate. We encourage all prospective facilitators to attend one of the Councils free facilitation webinars* to learn more about best practices for guiding successful and meaningful discussions. *Facilitators at featured sites must attend a facilitation webinar. President Lyndon B. Johnsons Remarks at the Signing of the Immigration Bill, Liberty Island, New York: October 3, 1965 Discussion Questions for President Lyndon B. Johnsons Remarks at the Signing of the Immigration Bill, Liberty Island, New York: October 3, 1965 Tips for Facilitating Tips for Hosting Sample Schedule Participant Evaluation Keep the Conversation Going Partners
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Struc ture

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Preside nt Lyndon B. Johnsons Remarks at the S igning of the Immigration Bill, Libe rty Isla nd, New York: October 3, 196 5
This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or really add importantly to either our wealth or our power. Yet it is still one of the most important acts of this Congress and of this administration. For it does repair a very deep and painful flaw in the fabric of American justice. It corrects a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American Nation. This bill says simply that from this day forth those wishing to immigrate to America shall be admitted on the basis of their skills and their close relationship to those already here. This is a simple test, and it is a fair test. Those who can contribute most to this countryto its growth, to its strength, to its spiritwill be the first that are admitted to this land. The fairness of this standard is so self-evident that we may well wonder that it has not always been applied. Yet the fact is that for over four decades the immigration policy of the United States has been twisted and has been distorted by the harsh injustice of the national origins quota system. Under that system the ability of new immigrants to come to America depended upon the country of their birth. Only 3 countries were allowed to supply 70 percent of all the immigrants. Families were kept apart because a husband or a wife or a child had been born in the wrong place. Men of needed skill and talent were denied entrance because they came from southern or eastern Europe or from one of the developing continents. This system violated the basic principle of American democracythe principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man. It has been un-American in the highest sense, because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country. Today, with my signature, this system is abolished. We can now believe that it will never again shadow the gate to the American Nation with the twin barriers of prejudice and privilege. Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide. The land flourished because it was fed from so many sourcesbecause it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples. And from this experience, almost unique in the history of nations, has come America's attitude toward the rest of the world. We, because of what we are, feel safer and stronger in a world as varied as the people who make it upa world where no country rules another and all countries can deal with the basic problems of human dignity and deal with those problems in their own way. The days of unlimited immigration are past. But those who do come will come because of what they are, and not because of the land from which they sprung. When the earliest settlers poured into a wild continent there was no one to ask them where they came from. The only question was: Were they sturdy enough to make the journey, were they strong enough to clear the land, were they enduring enough to make a home for freedom, and were they brave enough to die for liberty if it became necessary to do so?
(An excerpt from President Lyndon B. Johnsons Remarks at the Signing of the Immigration Bill, Liberty Island, New York: October 3, 1965).
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Discussio n Questions for Preside nt Lyndon B. Johnsons Remarks at the S igning of the Immigration Bill, Libe rty Isla nd, New York: October 3, 196 5
Johnson says, Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. How have we been a nation of strangers? Are we still a nation of strangers? What about in our community? How does a community of strangers transform into a community of friends? Johnson links immigration and justice. Do you think these two ideas are related? How? Johnson says the new law will change the criteria on which immigrants are admitted to the U.S. What are these criteria? Are there other qualities we value? Are there other reasons to admit immigrants? Johnson calls the new law simple and fair. Do you agree? What is fair when it comes to deciding who can immigrate to the U.S.? Johnson says the old law separated families. How is this similar to or different than today? Is there a solution to this issue? Johnson says that the basic principle of American democracy is that we reward people based on merit. Do you agree? Are there other basic principles that are important when we think about immigration? Johnson talks about the faith that brought immigrants to America since its inception. What is that faith? Does that faith still draw people to the United States? Johnson also mentions prejudice and privilege in the context of immigration debates. How do these ideas continue to shape the immigration debate? Johnson talks about Americans as one mighty and irresistible tide. Do you have to be part of the tide to be an American? At one point Johnson talks about the mighty and irresistible tide of American identity. Elsewhere he says this country flourished because it was fed from so many sources. Are these two ideas compatible? Johnson links our immigrant roots to America's relationship to the rest of the world. How are you and your community connected to other parts of the world through immigrants? Do you feel more connected to other parts of the world because of immigration? Do immigrants connections to the rest of the world make America unique? Johnson says past immigrants needed to be sturdy, strong, enduring, and brave. Are these qualities still important for immigrants today? Are there other characteristics that are important for todays immigrants? Johnson mentions that being brave enough to die for liberty is an important quality that makes one an American. Do you agree? Why do you think he raises this idea in a speech about immigration? Johnson gave this speech at the Statue of Liberty, which is often used as a symbol of immigration. But it is also often a symbol of New York. Do you think she is a good symbol for our state? Do you think she is as welcoming today as she was in 1965?
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Tips for Facilitating a Co mmunity Conversation

Community Conversations are simple gatherings that encourage thoughtful, engaged dialogue using a short reading to foster discussion. The goal is a comfortable, lively discussion free of bias and judgment. We hope the following suggestions will help you create an inviting environment for you and your community. Pl an ni ng fo r th e Co nv e rsatio n
Expect a healthy conversation to last between 60 and 90 minutes. Read the text several times, paying attention to the parts that were difficult or that made you pause. These will be the places that generate the most conversation. Use the sample questions in this toolkit as a starting point for writing questions that will resonate with your group. Decide how you will begin the conversation. The first few questions will set the tone for the discussion, so think about what themes in the text you would like to explore. Prepare about three times as many questions as you think youll cover with the group. You wont get to everything, but extra planning will help you follow the natural progression of the conversation. Plan a closing question or exercise that signals the end of the formal discussion, but encourages the group to keep the conversation going at home or among friends.

Ge ttin g Starte d Arrange chairs in a circle or semi-circle so that participants can easily see one another and be heard by all.

Start by establishing some basic guidelines with the group. For example, be respectful, make sure that everyone has a turn to speak, and focus your comments on the reading. Introduce yourself at the beginning of the session and ask each participant to do the same. Keep introductions short. Begin by reading the whole text aloud together. This allows everyone to have the opportunity to hear a fluent reader and invites people with lower levels of literacy to actively participate. Plan an opening activity to help participants get comfortable: ask a discussion question and encourage participants to share their thoughts in pairs and report back to the group.

Aski ng Go o d Qu e stio ns
Ask short, open-ended questions that dont have a right or wrong answer. Invite the participants to interpret the text in their own ways. Focus on places where opinions may differ (not on facts that cannot be disputed). Look for ways to connect the subject matter to everyday life. Encourage participants to form their own questions. Prioritize keeping the conversation going over getting to all of your questions. Use the text as a neutral place to return to if the conversation gets heated.

Li sten an d Le arn
Focus on listening, not teaching. Be flexible and let your questions follow the natural course of conversation. Dont feel that you need to ask every question youve prepared or in the order you planned. When the conversation is flowing, share your opinion last or not at all. Avoid answering your own questions. If there is a lull in the conversation, let people think about their answers before you move on. Look at the person speaking, and try not to cross your arms or legs. Address group members by their first names.

New York Council for the Humanities | T 212.233.1131 |

Tips for Hosting a Co mmunity Conversation

Fin d in g a Facil itato r

Find a facilitator who is a good fit for your group. (The host-site coordinator and the facilitator can be the same person.) The success of your conversation is highly dependent on the skill of your facilitator. o Look for someone who is open, friendly, and enjoys working with people. Your facilitator should believe in the program and share your enthusiasm for doing it! o Look for someone who is interested in what others have to say. Keep in mind, the facilitator is not there to teach the text or lecture on the topic, but rather to ask questions and let the group do the talking. o Look for someone who is willing to learn how to be a facilitator and can commit to doing the training webinar (if you are a featured site).

Re crui tmen t
Plan to begin publicizing your discussion at least three weeks in advance. The Council provides templates for press releases, fliers, and Community Conversation logos on our website. For public conversations, make fliers and post them at local libraries, community centers, coffee houses, school campuses, churches, veterans or union halls, and store bulletin boards. Be sure to get permission to leave or post fliers. Make every effort to draw a diverse audience to your program so that a variety of perspectives are represented in the discussion. If your conversation is for a closed group (staff, club, etc.), consider including the discussion at a time when you already meet, such as at a staff meeting. You may consider including the conversation on the day of a planned service project, either to start or conclude the project. Consider making fliers with the time, date, and location on one side and the text on the other.

Ro om Set-U p
Be sure to choose a room with good acoustics so that everyone, including people who may be hard of hearing, can hear each other. Choose a room that is free of other distractions. Seat participants in a circle or semi-circle so everyone can make eye contact with each other. Create a welcome table with copies of the text near the entrance to the room. Provide nametags and ask participants to use their first names. You may also want to include other literature or pamphlets from your organization related to the theme of the discussion. Make more than enough copies of the text so that everyone has a copy. Invite participants to take an extra copy after the discussion and share it with a friend or family member. Its a great way to keep the conversation going! Test any audiovisual equipment ahead of time to make sure that the volume is loud enough for everyone to hear. Dont play off of built-in computer speakersits difficult to hear in large groups and people may feel uncomfortable saying so. Provide light refreshments like juice, coffee or tea, and cookies. You can use the stipend to cover the cost of drinks and snacks. Make sure the facilitator has a view of a clock or other time-keeping device. If you are not the facilitator, seat yourself across from him or her so that you can easily make eye-contact.

Wrap -U p
Decide whether you will ask participants to fill out an evaluation form. Have copies on hand to distribute after the discussion has concluded. The Council has included a short evaluation form in this toolkit that you can use, or you can design your own. Be sure to share participant feedback, formal and informal, on the host-site coordinator evaluation form. Keep accurate attendance data for your own records to report back to the Council. The Council does not require you to share names or contact information of attendees. If you are a featured site, complete the online evaluation for host-site coordinators within two weeks of the event.

New York Council for the Humanities | T 212.233.1131 |

Sample Schedule for a Co mmunity Conversation

Planning Guidelines for Community Conversations

Introduce yourselves briefly - 10 minutes

Use first names. Name one country your ancestors (or you) are from. (Limit participants to 1 - 3 word answers.)

Read the text aloud - 10 minutes

Ask one fluent reader to read the entire text. Suggest participants underline or make notes about parts of the text that surprise or intrigue them.

Check comprehension - 5 minutes

Did everyone understand the vocabulary? Are there any phrases that need further clarification?

Discuss - 50 minutes

Focus on interpretive and evaluative questions: Interpretive: What does Johnson mean when he says X? Evaluative: Do you agree with Johnson when he says X? Why or why not? How does our community react to new immigrants? Is it a welcoming community? Would you feel at home here if you came from another country?

Wrap-Up - 15 minutes

New York Council for the Humanities | T 212.233.1131 |

Participant Evaluatio n

Name: _______________________________________________________________________
Di d this co nv ersa ti on h el p yo u to th in k ab ou t th is to pi c in n e w wa ys? Definitely Not Not really Possibly Somewhat Definitely

Di d yo u le arn f rom yo u r pe e rs du rin g the co n ve rsatio n? Definitely Not Not really Possibly Somewhat Definitely

We re you e n cou rage d to sh are yo u r re actio ns to th e to pi c an d tex t? Definitely Not Not really Possibly Somewhat Definitely

We re o th e rs e nc ou rage d to sh are th ei r re actio ns to th e to pi c an d tex t? Definitely Not Not really Possibly Somewhat Definitely

Di d the f acil itato r ask re le van t an d in tere stin g qu e stio ns abo u t the te xt an d top ic? Definitely Not Not really Possibly Somewhat Definitely

Ho w v alu ab le was it to you to p arti cip ate in thi s pro gram? Not at all valuable Not very valuable Somewhat valuable Valuable Very valuable

Ho w i mpo rtant is i t to hav e pro grams like th is o n e in you r co mmu n ity? Not at all important Not very important
Somewhat important


Very important

Do yo u pl an to tal k to frie n ds and f amil y abo u t the i de as rai sed i n th is pro gram? No Maybe Yes

Wo u ld you pa rti cip ate in thi s kin d of pro gram agai n? No Maybe Yes

Pl e ase add an y add iti on al com men ts ab ou t to day s Co mmu nity Co nve rsatio n .

Would you like to receive the Councils e-newsletter? Email: _______________________________________________________________________________

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Keep the Conversation Going with Support from the New York Council for the Humanities

Explore more of what the Council has to offer! These grants and programs support conversation-based programming.

Conversations Bureau Discuss ideas based on a short text, led by a scholar-facilitator

90-minute discussion guided by a scholar-facilitator. Centered on a short text focused on American identity. Explore Immigration Studies with some of these Conversations: - American Dreamer: Immigration Politics of Hyphenation - Oscar Wao and the Latino Immigrant Experience - From Cappuccino to Jambalaya: Food and the American Identity Series of thematically linked texts over the course of four, five, or six sessions. Muslim Journeys: Explore how the humanities promote understanding of and mutual respect for people with diverse stories, cultures, and perspectives within the U.S. and abroad. Other themes include: Working, Serving, Growing and Aging, Making Sense of the Civil War, and Lincoln on the Civil War. A forum for parents and their 9- to 11-year old children to come together to talk about books and ideas. Six 90-minute sessions are co-facilitated by a librarian and a humanities scholar from the local community. Explore key themes in American life such as courage, freedom, and being American. Design your own conversation-based programming about important humanities ideas or texts that encourage informed public discourse in communities. Apply for a Planning, Project, or Special Initiatives Grant. Grants range from $1,500 to $3,000.

Rea ding & Discussion Progra ms for Adults Read and talk about books and ideas in a group setting

Tog ether a nd Unidos Family reading and discussion program for parents and kids

Grants Funding for projects using humanities to engage the public

Speakers in the Humanities and Spea kers in the Schools Lectures on humanities topics

Over 200 humanities-based lectures on a wide variety of topics. Host a lecture on Immigration Studies: - The Ethnic Musicals: Assimilation and Integration - Longing and Belonging: The Idea of Home in Asian American Literature - New York Citys Lower East Side: A Revolving Door for Immigrants

Visit us at for all program information, guidelines, and application forms. Any not-for-profit organization in New York State is eligible to apply for Council grants and programs.

New York Council for the Humanities | T 212.233.1131 |

Co mmunity Conversations Partners


New York Council for the Humanities | T 212.233.1131 |