I don’t like the City Club. I love the City Club. The rest of the world had to invent TED Talks back in the 1980s to come close to what Cleveland has had for more than 100 years courtesy of the City Club. But the thing those TED Talks are missing is the thing that makes the City Club great - the ability for the public to ask their own questions.
For the past several years, we’ve had the privilege of partnering with the City Club on a world affairs series we call “Happy Dog Takes on the World.” The City Club and our other partner organizations, the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, the Northeast Ohio Consortium of Middle East Studies (NOCMES), International Partners in Mission, and Global Cleveland have a network of connections to bring interesting speakers together on the first Tuesday of every month to share their perspectives on the most pressing issues and events occurring outside our borders.
The list of speakers has been impressive, and the topics have ranged from the Arab Spring, the war in Yemen and the origins of ISIS, to gang violence in Central America, the Panama Papers, mass population migration, the European elections, the invasion of Crimea, Putin’s Russia, the Ebola epidemic, and the pro-democracy movement in China (you can check out podcasts of many of these discussions on the City Club's website). But as our moderator, 90.3 WCPN ideastream®’s Tony Ganzer, explains when he introduces each month’s topic - it is the audience’s questions that really drive the discussion.
The collective wisdom and inquisitiveness of the audience during the question and answer period surfaces new ideas and pushes speakers to explore topics in greater depth. Giving the public the opportunity to ask questions and challenge speakers creates the space for civil discourse on even the most controversial topics. Participation is what takes City Club talks from speeches or lectures to dialogue and conversation - from passive attendance to active engagement.
Cultural excellence and public engagement are part of our DNA as Clevelanders - so much so, that we don’t always recognize how unique our opportunities are relative to people in other cities. Take advantage of the opportunities we have as Clevelanders - join the City Club, come to a talk at The Happy Dog and ASK QUESTIONS. Life is so much more interesting when you get involved, not just for you, but for the rest of us, too.
Sean Watterson is owner of The Happy Dog, the host site of our monthly Happy Dog Takes on the World series.