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An unusual hotel


08/22/18



Next month, 38 professionals from across New Hampshire will gather for a two-day meeting.  But unlike the kind of hotels they are likely used to, they will share four-person bunk-bedded rooms at a summer camp near Tuftonboro. They will help set the tables for meals, serve the food, clear up, and help with the dishes.  And for all of this, they will each be paying a tuition. They will be the 27th group of folks to have this experience.  
After this two-day session, they will meet for one day a month till next June, traveling to venues all over the state to experience directly and to learn about the regions, needs, resources and people of New Hampshire. Along the way they will reflect as a group on what it means to be a citizen of this state.  While the members of this group will sit through presentations, watch PowerPoints and hear from panelists, much of what they gain will be from one another.
How they came to be in this group is itself informative. More than 70 people annually apply, each submitting a resume, a set of essays and letters of reference, and each then experiencing an hour-long interview with two alumni. A selection committee of alumni then chooses the class. Each year, it consists of individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to the betterment of the communities in which they live, whether through volunteer service, elected or appointed public office, membership on a board, or some initiative they have championed.
What brings them together is actually one of the most important things they learn over the course of the 10 months. In truth, it almost sounds old-fashioned, for it is a belief that there is such a thing as “our common good” — “a set of shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society.” It’s a value quite the opposite of simply looking out for No. 1.
Much has been said about the polarization of our society today, nationally and even here in our state.  Frustration, anger, cynicism, a sense of powerlessness, or simple inertia have stifled shared and constructive discourse. In his recent book, The Common Good, Robert Reich challenges the reader to reengaged in public life “…by reaching out, and help resurrect civility by acting more civilly toward those with whom we disagree.”
The 27th class of Leadership New Hampshire is set on a course to examine that challenge and to ask, as did classes before it, how to turn that challenge into a firm commitment.
Stephen Reno is the executive director of Leadership New Hampshire. His email is stepreno@gmail.com.





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