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Roh Spaulding’s book highlights the story of immigrant children as they transition to a life that is often very different from the one they left behind. Both strive to increase awareness of the challenges and contributions of the immigrant and the challenges of the receiving society.

“It really is a give-and-take between cultures,” says Roh Spaulding, “New arrivals face and present challenges, but they also greatly enrich us.”

The formal presentations are followed by facilitated conversation. Each table is given a few suggested questions to guide the ensuing dialogue with an emphasis on civility and equal participation by all. A synopsis of each table’s conversation is then shared with the room for open discussion.

Iowans have traditionally adjusted to new waves of immigration with little conflict. “But we’re still pretty homogeneous, and we have to be global,” says Gupta.

There’s consensus in the historic house that experiencing other cultures is key to acceptance as Iowa’s culture becomes more global.

“Iowa is unique,” says Roh Spaulding, citing immigration attorney Ann Naffier. “We have the chance to do it right.”

The topic and the conversation are indicative of a WCI gathering. Last fall’s series of Civility Luncheons, Politics and Civility, included presenters such as Loretta Sieman, a public relations consultant and former West Des Moines City Council member, and Des Moines Register editor Rick Green.

“Iowa is the birthplace of civility,” said Green. “Collegial conversation like this doesn’t happen in other parts of the country. We need more of this.”

Previous gatherings at the Country Life Center highlighted agriculture land use, local food systems, and rural economic issues.

“These are crucial issues,” says Weiland, “and they call for civil exchange of facts and opinions. It’s important to stay in the conversation.”

More information about The Wallace Center of Iowa sites and programs can be found at www.wallace.org.

Terri Queck-Matzie is a Fontanelle-based writer and photographer whose appetite is whetted by good conversation.

All photos courtesy The Wallace Centers of Iowa.

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