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This Story is provided by The Herald Times

O'Bannon Institute plants seeds of civic engagement

Our opinion

April 30, 2009

The O’Bannon Institute books great speakers, such as presidential historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson, this year’s featured guests. The insights and wisdom the headliners offer year after year are a major part of this annual celebration of becoming an important participant of a larger community.

But they’re just a part.

The overarching focus of the three-day program at Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus Bloomington is civic engagement, including volunteerism, public service and political involvement.

Today, more than 115 students, faculty and staff members from Ivy Tech will participate in the O’Bannon Institute by volunteering at one of 17 organizations. They will be preparing and serving meals, gardening, pulling weeds, stocking warehouse shelves, donating blood and working with children, among other things. The agencies will receive needed help, and the students, faculty and staff members will receive the exceedingly valuable lessons that go along with volunteering their time and energy to help others.

Friday’s public events will include panel discussions on health care, foreign policy and the economy. All are subjects about which knowledge is a vital ingredient of engagement.

The week’s main speakers — Goodwin and Robinson — will share observations, personal stories and educated viewpoints that also should inspire audience members to become involved in their communities.

This O’Bannon Institute will be the sixth to plant the seeds of future public service with those who attend its events. The even deeper value of the institute is how those seeds will bloom in the years ahead.

Bloomington is fortunate to be home to such an event.