The executive director for a civic engagement group at Harvard University discussed the importance of social communities to a crowd of more than 275 students, faculty and visitors at the 5th Annual Jim Wright Symposium on Thursday. Tom Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America at Harvard University, said human socialization is beneficial to many.
“Social networks have value for a broad range of individual and collective human activities,” Sander said.
Sander said television and generational gaps are to blame for the dwindling number of families sitting down for a family dinner – an example of civil disengagement.
Sander said he wanted to emphasize to students how important social connections are in creating strong communities.
Sander took the place of professor Robert D. Putnam, a research colleague, who was scheduled to speak but came down with a potentially life-threatening staph infection, said Lynn Taylor, an event planner for TCU.
“We were afraid people wouldn’t show up when they found out it wasn’t going to be Putnam,” Taylor said, “but it was a great turnout.”
Associate professor of political science Valerie Martinez-Ebers said Sander has a wonderful sense of humor, which helped him deliver the data and material that was serious, alarming and appalling.
The symposium this year was hosted by the political science department and the TCU Center for Civic Learning.
It was a day-long discussion about civic engagement, said Terri Gartner, an administrative assistant for the political science department.
Rosa Rosales, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, also spoke at the symposium.
Rosales said she wanted to convey to students the need to organize instead of agonize.
LULAC is the oldest and largest Hispanic organization in the United States, according to the Symposium’s program.
There was a strong connection between the presentations of Sander and Rosales because LULAC is an organization promoting community engagement, Martinez-Ebers said.
The symposium included the luncheon with Sander, a reception for Rosales, a panel discussion about perspectives of civic engagement and Rosales’ presentation.