Freethinking is foremost at Jefferson Center

Thomas Jefferson is remembered for penning the Declaration of Independence, founding the University of Virginia and serving as president of the United States. These, and many other such many achievements on behalf of human freedom, have made the name Jefferson synonymous with critical thinking and intellectual integrity. So it is not surprising that an Ashland-based organization that promotes those very ideals would call itself The Jefferson Center.

Bob Semes, executive director of The Jefferson Center, describes the work of the organization as fostering Jeffersonian ideals and a humanistic world view. As an affiliate member of the American Humanist Association, the Jefferson Center has been offering the community many opportunities to explore critical contemporary topics for the past four years.

Every summer during the first week in August the Center presents its Summer Institute. This year's Institute, the Center's third, will be held Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning, Aug. 3-5, on the SOU campus. This year's topic is "The Earth in the Hot Seat: Ethics and the Environment." The keynote speaker will be former Congressman Pete Mccloskey (R-CA) who was a co-author of the first Earth Day and continues to be a champion of environmentalism.

Guest lecturers include: J. Baird Callicott, professor of philosophy and environmental ethics, University of North Texas and a leading environmental ethicist in the U.S.; Linda Mearns, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and director of the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment; and Nalini Nadkarni, member of the faculty in environmental studies, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington and a leading authority on forest canopies.

In addition there will be Workshops with regional leaders: Jack Williams, chief scientist for Trout Unlimited's national program; Michael Parker, professor of Biology, SOU; Eric Alan, author and photographer; Nadine Kanim, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center; and Bob Hunter, staff attorney for WaterWatch of Oregon.

The Institute opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, in the Arena Room of the Stevenson Union on the SOU campus.

The group holds monthly Salon Groups at the Center's office space, Suite 101 in the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland. The salons meet at 2 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month and again at 7:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month except in July and August. Those attending can hear speakers, watch video presentations and participate in lively discussions.

The Jefferson Center's Fall/Spring Lecture Series brings guest speakers to the Rogue Valley to address topics relevant to the Center's Jeffersonian mission. This fall's lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, on the Southern Oregon University campus, and will feature planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, leader of the Imaging Science Team on the Cassini Mission at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, COL. The Cassini space probe is now orbiting Saturn.

In addition to hosting speakers, the Center maintains a growing library for its members and an informative web site, .

Semes emphasized the concern that The Jefferson Center has for cultivating a society that affirms the dignity of every human and where respect and integrity is the norm and freedom of belief or non-belief is respected. This summer's Institute speaks directly to The Jefferson Center's commitment to value and cherish the Earth for present and future generations.

Call 488-9450 for information.

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