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September 16, 2010

Building understanding

It was September 2001, just a few weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and Gloucester resident and international journalist Dan Connell had an idea.

He wanted to develop a program that would help educate Cape Ann residents about some of the global issues at work behind the global political climate — and he wanted, in perhaps some small way, to spark debate of those issues and help build better understanding.

So he launched a lecture program with a presentation called "Why Do They Hate Us?" — and drew 150 people to Gloucester's Unitarian Universalist Church.

With that, the Cape Ann Forum was born. The forum now kicks off its 10th year this Sunday at 7 p.m., with author and journalist Stephen Kinzer speaking at 7 p.m. in the Kyrouz Auditorium of Gloucester City Hall.

Kinzer's talk, titled "Facing Disaster in the Middle East: Is There a Way Out?," calls for a sweeping "reset" of American policy in the Middle East, according to the forum's web site.

Connell said he thought Kinzer was a perfect fit for this year's opening, because his new book "Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future" — released last spring — introduces ideas of how to think of the Middle East in new ways, according to Connell (see a "My View" column by Kinzer on today's Times Opinion page).

"The Middle East is an issue that engages the country so much," said Connell, relating to the presence of our Armed Forces involvement in the area.

Looking back on the forum's 2001 founding, Connell said he sensed "there was a hunger for people to understand better."

This need to know led Connell to another round of lectures encouraged by the residents. This time, the lectures were held in City Hall, where the Kyrouz Auditorium can handle up to 250 residents discussing these international issues, according to Connell.

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