This essay isn’t about politics, but political debate crowds the daily news to such an extent that we might as well use it as a reference point. For instance, while Democrat and Republican politicians strive to gain voter approval, they often talk about remaking American society, helping us reach our full potential to claim our share of the American dream. Each party has its own recipe, but they seem to agree that our "just dessert" is "pie in the sky by and by."

Puns aside, Americans do seem committed to the ideal of self-improvement. From our earliest history, a brief history by world standards, we’ve shown a talent for inventing and reinventing ourselves. Individual and social change is a constant process for Americans, perhaps because we aren’t shackled by centuries of tradition. Our great frontiers gave us the opportunity and set the habit of growth. After western expansion reached its bounds, we found new frontiers in space and technology. We seem to be addicted to progress.

The big question to consider is how we plan and manage our growth. Who sets the course? Who distinguishes progress from regression? In the whirlwind of a presidential election, we might assume our political leaders guide us. However, political debate tends to spend most of its energy going around in circles, often with the beneficial effect of a tornado.

Real social change seems to move more like a massive weather front, slowly sliding over the country. Of course, such fronts may set off political storms, but their real effect is far more widespread. The power of weather fronts and social movements come from a change of temperature over a wide area. This change occurs when people-you and I-get together to think and talk.

So now we come to the core: worthwhile social change seems to depend on people coming together to share opinions and ideas. As a staff member at Illinois Central College, I’m proud of our community college’s commitment to fostering the free exchange of ideas. My connection with the ICC Arts and Communications Department adds to my interest in encouraging you to attend the many events that ICC hosts. Not only will your life be enriched, but our society will be stronger and healthier as we meet and talk and share ideas.

How can you find out what events are available? Arts Alive! is one of the best sources of information about events in central Illinois, so you’re already well equipped. Perhaps you can boost the beneficial effect of this magazine by sharing it with friends. Communities are built brick by brick, and social events are part of the mortar that holds us together.

ICC hosts a Subscription Series of professional entertainment, a theatre season opening October 1 with Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, along with concerts by ICC Concert Band, Concert Choirs, Jazz Band, and Vocal Jazz Ensemble. ICC’s Student Entertainment Association hosts a Lively Arts Series. In addition, several noteworthy community groups work in-residence at ICC, giving concerts throughout the year: the Heart of Illinois Chorus, the Philharmonic Chorale, the Prairie Wind Ensemble, and TazWood Dance Company. If you’re interested in more information about events scheduled by ICC, call the Performing Arts Center box office at 694-5136. We’ll be pleased to mail you an events list and to answer questions about coming attractions.

One event to mark on your calendar is the opening offering for the ICC Lecture Arts Series. On September 10, several ICC faculty members will present a local premier reading of Omnium Gatherum, an American conversation post 9-11. Characters in the play relate their experiences of 9-11 in conversations that are both thought provoking and humorous. The reading starts at 9 a.m. in ICC’s Performing Arts Center, with a public discussion to follow. This event is presented free, as are many of the concerts and lectures sponsored by ICC. So don’t worry about the cost of attending; instead, think about the cost of not attending.

The direction of our society depends on the free exchange of ideas. The people who win public office know the value of listening to that conversation. AA!