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Newport library program focuses on American democracy

'Searching for Democracy,' which debuted in April, gave a unique perspective on the country's governing style.

September 07, 2012|By Britney Barnes
  • Iranian native Mehri Manzari spoke Thursday morning about coming to America, and the freedom of living in a democracy at the Newport Beach Central Library’s seventh annual International Literacy Day Celebration. She is one of several authors of a collection of essays entitled “In Our Words” about democracy and America for the “Searching for Democracy” program.
Iranian native Mehri Manzari spoke Thursday morning… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The Newport Beach Public Library brought a bit of democracy to residents through an interactive program and display.

"Searching for Democracy," a program that debuted in April, "gives people a different spin on something we all take for granted," said library Director Cynthia Cowell. "It's very easy for us not to think about it, and that's what the whole grant process was about."

The library received a $2,500 grant from the California Council for Humanities, plus matching funding from the Newport Beach Library Foundation, for the program to engage residents of all ages in a dialogue about the democratic process, said Jana Barbier, the library's cultural arts coordinator.

The Newport Beach Civic Center, expected to open at the end of the year, was the impetus for the program's creation, Cowell said.

The November elections are an added bonus.

Residents could discuss the meaning of democracy and how it has and hasn't changed through books, a film screening, reproductions of important documents like the Constitution, and displays of the first American flag designs.

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As part of the program, Richard Beeman participated in an author's forum on his book, "The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution," which was the library's community book selection.

Children tried their hands at their own John Hancocks by signing their names with a feather quill.

As a finale, the library's Literacy Services involved its adult "learners" in writing an essay on America and democracy.

The essays will be on display at the Central Library until the November elections, serving as a reminder of the privilege of living in America, Barbier said.

britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

Excerpt from the essay "Democracy Means to Me" by Grace Liu collected in "In Our Words"

"Democracy is a myriad of opportunities. There are no boundaries to knowledge. Everyone is allowed to pursue knowledge as far as they can, no matter their age. Democracy is a compromise and commitment. There is hope for no wars in the world. Nation to nation, people to people, coming to a compromise, no matter their strengths or weaknesses as nation."

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