Maggie's Minute August 20

Bonanza of bright minds!

Whether making ice cream and finding uses for very large zucchini, going fishing and fixing the roof or lolling in the hammock with crosswords and packing carryalls with textbooks, August is the month that both embraces us in summer glory and propels us back to the business of fall--a time to nurture good ideas of a widely diverse nature, and then find a way to move them forward.

Colorado took a pretty big step forward on Aug. 1 by becoming the 38th state in the Union 136 years ago during a presidential election year that found us young, busy and relatively poor. No time to elect our electors so they were selected instead by our state legislature. They gave Colorado's three votes to the Republican Party in what may be the most controversial presidential election in American history, debated by historians to this day: the single instance, before or since, of the Electoral College overriding the popular vote and giving the presidency to the other guy. Emerging from a legal and political battle involving 20 disputed electoral votes in what is known as the Compromise of 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes came out on top. The compromise hinged on the Republican Party's agreement to a number of domestic policy actions, including the withdrawal of all federal troops from Southern states and a charter for the construction of a second transcontinental railroad.

Speaking of domestic policy, that's the topic on Oct. 3 at the University of Denver for the next election's first presidential debate-also the first ever held in Colorado, and the only one west of the Mississippi for this election. AND, speaking of debates on DU's campus, Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 6-8 pm, in Sturm Hall's  Davis Auditorium, 2000 E. Asbury Ave., Colorado Humanities joins the DU Daniels College of Business to present the outdoor event, Great Debates: To Form a More Perfect Union. Moderated by former Gov. Lamm, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, through the skill and scholarship of renowned historian/performers Clay Jenkinson and Hal Bidlack, continue their heated debates over decisions integral to the founding of America.

Another important arena for discussion will be a two-day conference at the University of Colorado Boulder called The Nation Possessed: The Conflicting Claims on America's Public Lands, Sept. 11-14, offered by the Center of the American West and the Public Lands Foundation in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the General Land Office. Free, public events range from the keynote address by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and a talk by Native American Rights Attorney Walter Echo-Hawk to a reenactment/preenactment with Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and a Visitor from the Future.  Conference events require tickets and registration. For more info and to register, see Center of the American West.

Denver, which many of us celebrate as a hotbed of bright minds, was selected recently as a satellite location for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Another wonderful place to celebrate bright minds this year is the Western Slope, where our annual Two Rivers Chautauqua will be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 & 15 in Grand Junction at the Cross Orchards Historic Site.  The daytime and evening performances will center on the theme "Inventive Minds." Be prepared for entertainment!  Henry Ford, Mary Shelley, Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss will blow you away (and the region's winefest that runs concurrently with Two Rivers Chautauqua might be just the thing to bring you back). Puts me in mind of a beguiling range of creations invented here in Colorado, including the use of radio carbon dating, fluoride to prevent tooth decay, Barbie and the cheeseburger.

Pinspotting! Have your Colorado Humanities membership lapel pin yet? We're getting ready for a bout of pinspotting, and hope to see one on you! A good time to show up wearing your colors will be the reception for 2012 Colorado Book Awards winners at 7:30 pm tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 21, at the Tattered Cover Book Store on Wynkoop in Denver.

I'll sign off now with this timely reminder from author and political philosopher Michael Sandel: "If American politics is to recover its civic voice, it must find a way to debate questions we have forgotten how to ask."

Maggie Coval, Executive Director

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