Book by Scranton’s Sondra Myers Featured in Rwanda

Dec 5, 2011

            Sondra Myers, senior fellow for international, civic and cultural projects and director of the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton, has received national and international recognition for her efforts to make education, culture and democracy accessible and relevant to all citizens.

            In 2008, Myers edited “The New Rwanda: Prosperity and the Public Good,” which includes essays by scholars and civic leaders on the role of education and public discourse in nurturing a democratic society in the African nation. Two years later, in 2010, at the request of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the book was translated into Kinyarwanda.  “The New Times,” an English newspaper published in the capital of Kigali, announced last month that it is serializing Myers’ book, which will run in installments on Saturdays and Sundays. Also, beginning Nov. 26, a radio station in Kigali began a program that will feature the excerpt through a panel and call-in discussion weekly after each installment. Myers was also informed that the book is being distributed to Rwanda’s parliament and its embassies worldwide.

            Most of us associate Rwanda with the events of 1994, when this small rural African nation was shaken to its core by 100 days of genocide that claimed 800,000 lives – with little intervention by the international community. In 2003, after nearly a decade of civil war and political and economic instability, 93 percent of Rwandans voted to approve a new constitution with equal parliamentary representation between the two parties, Hutu and Tutsi, and a democratic presidential election resulted in a landslide victory for President Kagame.

            Today’s Rwanda has achieved remarkable political, economic and educational progress. Most observers agree that the foundation of that progress has been the leadership of President Kagame, to whom education and discourse is the way for Rwandans to internalize the values of interdependence and civic responsibility. In 2008, a roundtable discussion among prominent Rwandan educators and international academic leaders delivered a set of recommendations to enable all citizens to discuss issues affecting their society, take ownership of these issues, and act responsibly to achieve constructive change.

            That roundtable discussion, titled “The Role of Universities in building a Culture of Civic Responsibility, Interdependence and Prosperity,” was the stimulus for Myers’ book, which has become a catalyst for discussions in Rwandan schools, churches and community forums. Comprised of interviews and essays, Myers’ handbook includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter and practical tips for organizing and implementing a national conversation for prosperity and the public good.

            Quoting her book’s introduction, Myers explains, “Think of the national conversation as an approach to talking about the issues and solutions to problems that you as a citizen must address if the New Rwanda is to be a place that you want for yourselves, your children and your grandchildren.” She added, “In my view, the most precious right that an individual can have is the right to be responsible for the public good. And we can’t be good citizens of our own society without integrating the understanding of others.”

            Myers has organized roundtable discussions and presented programs on strengthening democracy and the culture of interdependence in the United States and around the world. She has edited or co-edited five other books: “Democracy Is A Discussion,” “The Courage To Care” (1989), “The Democracy Reader” (2002), “The Interdependence Handbook” (2004) and “The Pluralist Paradigm” (2007).

            A past member and vice chair of the Board of Trustees at The University of Scranton, Myers has also served on several notable state and national organizations that promote the arts and democracy. In November, President Obama announced his intent to appoint Myers to the 20-member Commission on Presidential Scholars.

            As director of the University’s Schemel Forum, she has expanded its courses, programs and special events – making this cultural and educational initiative an important resource available to the campus and surrounding community. While attending a recent Schemel Forum course on America’s Civil War, Myers had an epiphany: President Kagame of Rwanda, like our own President Lincoln 150 years ago, took action to unify his country.

            “I believe that the world is interdependent, the past is relevant, and we all should be engaged in thinking about important issues,” she said.

             Sondra Myers travels the world, advises leaders and brings prominent speakers to our campus. Insightful and influential, she exemplifies the highest degrees of pride, passion and promise.

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