Local Government and Politics, News

Exploring what it means to be an American at the Nahant Library

NAHANT — Nahant Library director Sharon Hawkes is sparking a conversation about the makeup of American — and Nahanter — character.

With a federal administration that says it’s making America great again, Hawkes said it’s important to talk about what makes Americans great to begin with.

“It’s a good time for us to think about who we are and what we want,” she said Hawkes has planned a series of events to spark questions about what Americans want from elected officials and in legislation, how they want to be as citizens of the country, and who they want to share their citizenship with. She wants to encourage residents to explore who they are as Nahanters using the Massachusetts Memories Road Show archive of photographs and stories assembled last year during a discussion on March 11.

“We will talk about who we are as Nahanters and, of course, that suddenly has become very relevant as people are concerned about an expansion project proposed by Northeastern University on East Point,” said Hawks. “There’s a moment in time for us to consider who we are, what do we want, and how do we stand up for that.”

Dozens of residents read “Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks in February as part of a town-wide project to read a book and engage in community conversation.

“There are very many aspects of the American character, which has developed through history,” she said. “We’re reading about 17th Century America to talk about 21st Century America.”

This Saturday “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be shown as the first in a series of films about American justice, independence, the melting pot, and opportunity that will continue each weekend of the month.

The Joy Luck Club” will be shown on March 10, “True Grit” on March 24, and “The Great Gatsby” on March 31. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” based on Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, tells a story about justice in America, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent, said Hawkes.

The conversation will continue on Sunday at 4 p.m. with a visit from U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor, who in 2000 was the first judge in 50 years to oversee a death penalty case in Massachusetts. He wrote two novels based on his experience. “The Hanging Judge” was published in 2013 and “The One Eyed Judge” in 2017.

“We’re excited to have him and I think it will help open more dialogue about who we are as Americans,” said Hawkes.

The project will conclude with a March 25 book discussion juxtaposed with the Norman Rockwell illustration of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms.”

“The library is a place of information and ideas,” said Hawkes. “A place to share both of those and a place to create knowledge. So my job, as I see it, is to help facilitate the creation of that knowledge. In this case, we bring people together and I ask questions. I don’t have the solutions to these questions but hopefully by asking the people, they come to thoughtful conclusions about who they want to be.”

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