A local "This I Believe" project, which is modeled after a CBS Radio network program that ran from 1951-55 and was hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow, is part of an international initiative that encourages people of all faiths, socioeconomic and ethnicities to share through short essays the core values that guide their lives.
Rather than focusing on a single book, the 2010 Putnam County Reads program will use a collection of books -- "This I Believe: Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Woman," published in 2006; "This I Believe II: More Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women," published in 2008; and "Edward R. Murrow's This I Believe: Selections from the 1950s Radio Series."
Several copies of all three books are available for individual checkout at the library. They are also available in book club kits and for teachers.
In addition to reading the books, groups and individuals are encouraged to compose their own essays.
"Every person has his or her own story to tell," said Margot Payne, PCPL director of community relations.
Essays will be reviewed by a panel of judges, and some will be selected to by read aloud by their authors on Nov. 4. The readings will be part of DePauw's annual ArtsFest, and will take place at the Prindle Institute. Readings will begin at noon and 7 p.m.
Local middle and high school teachers and students are urged to participate in the initiative, Payne said. Resources for developing curriculums around the project are available at thisibelieve.org.
Additionally, the library has partnered with Bob Steele, director of DePauw's Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics and distinguished professor of journalism ethics to help out younger writers. Steele led a freshman seminar in 2009 based on "This I Believe," and he and the students who participated in that seminar will be available to mentor middle and high school students through essay writing workshops and classroom assistance.
Steele will be aided in this endeavor by Molly McGonigal, a DePauw junior majoring in Spanish and writing who is also a student intern at the Prindle Institute.
Writing workshops for adults and students will also be held throughout the project at the library and the Prindle Institute. Dates and times will be announced later.
Several events are planned in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 essay readings.
Award-winning journalist Victor Merina, a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism and editor of the "Voice & Values Journalism Project," will be in Greencastle the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 2. He will conduct a writing workshop for adults. This workshop will also be open to teachers, middle and high school students.
Additionally, Merina will give talks and do readings at both the library and the Prindle Institute.
Merina's schedule will be:
* Monday, Sept. 27 -- "A Conversation with Journalist Victor Merina: This I Believe -- The Power of Personal Essays," Putnam County Public Library, 7 p.m.
* Tuesday, Sept. 28 -- "Storytelling and a Diverse Society," Prindle Institute, 7 p.m.
* Wednesday, Sept. 29 -- Essay writing workshop for high school students, Putnam County Public Library, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
* Thursday, Sept. 30 -- Essay writing workshop for middle school students, Putnam County Public Library, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
* Saturday, Oct. 2 -- Essay writing workshop for adults, Putnam County Public Library, 9 a.m. to noon
"These workshops will be a really good way for kids -- and adults -- to learn to write essays," Payne said.
Dates for group discussions about the books will be announced in the coming weeks, Payne said.
Murrow's radio show featured essays written and then read over the air by such celebrities as Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson and Harry Truman -- as well as essays composed by people who worked as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists and housewives.
The show was revived by Dan Gediman and Jay Allison on National Public Radio in 2005. In the more modern versions, essays from Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem, Bill Gates, Tony Hawk and Yo-Yo Ma were broadcast.
Payne is enthusiastic about the program.
"These essays lead to so many opportunities for discussions," she said.
Any individuals, groups or teachers interested in participating in the program should call Payne at 653-2755, Ext. 118 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone who would like their essay to be considered for the readings should submit it by Oct. 22. Essays can be mailed to 103 E. Poplar St., Greencastle, IN 46135, or e-mailed to Payne.