More than 400 Hoosiers turned out this week in Muncie, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Angola to see Indiana Humanities’ Our Towns: Indiana Tour with authors James and Deborah Fallows. It was a great way to kick off our new two-year INseparable initiative as we explored what makes successful communities, large and small.
Thanks to our partner New America and our sponsor Ruoff Home Mortgage for helping to make it happen. And thanks to our moderators Ball State University President Geoffrey S. Mearns, Adam Wren, Ashley C. Ford and Adam Thies for keeping the conversations flowing.
The Fallowses, who visited scores of communities for their book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America, left us with a lot to think about as we ponder what civic success could mean for our cities and towns in the months and years to come.
Here are five takeaways to consider:
- Indiana is a laboratory for the future of economic development. In an era of automation, it is the nation’s most manufacturing-dependent state, James Fallows noted. “The state of Indiana is a fantastic laboratory for the next stage of conversation about workforce and opportunity,” he said. “People here have a sophisticated understanding of navigating work changing.”
- Muncie is blessed. Deborah Fallows said she heard the word “blessed” more in Muncie than almost any other place she’s traveled while discussing the community assets available to a city or town.
- Interesting conversation ends when you ask about politics. “You get richer, more useful feedback when you ask, not, ‘What about Trump? What about Obama?’ but ‘What about Angola?’” James Fallows said.
- Librarians really do know everything. Deborah Fallows said libraries are where you need to go if want to find out what is really happening in a town. Libraries often are the first institutions that take action to fill gaps in a community, she said.
- Arts and the humanities are important threads in the civic fabric. “Arts give a chance for people to participate in civic life,” Deborah Fallows said. “They’re an excuse to bring people together.” James Fallows said the humanities allow us to see the world from other people’s shoes and better understand each other.
If you were unable to make it to any of the conversations with the Fallowses, you can watch a replay of their Muncie visit.
We also invite you to join us for our next INseparable event, simultaneous Chew on This dinner conversations in Batesville, Carmel, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, New Albany, Rensselaer, South Bend and Warsaw. We’ll be exploring what divides us as Hoosiers and what can make us inseparable. Register here.