- Subject: Looky here!
- From: Carol Holst <kceh@AIRMAIL.NET>
- Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 08:32:21 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Jan. 9, 2002, 9:50AM
Letting their opinions be known
Alvin residents organize weekly forums to speak their minds
By JOHN PAPE
Got something to say? A group of Alvin residents wants to hear it.
The "soapbox" is a grassroots effort to promote free speech by offering
people the opportunity to voice their opinions in a public forum. The
effort is the brainchild of Alvin resident Margaret Davis.
"Several people concerned about issues in the community were frustrated
that we didn't have a forum where we could express our opinions.
There was no way to get your viewpoints out," said Davis, 41, a
That frustration led to discussions among several people on how they
could get their opinions heard and encourage public dialogue on issues
facing the community. Those discussions led to the creation of the
"I have been fighting standardized dress in schools, and Carol Holst has
been fighting standardized testing. One day while we were talking
about how to get these concerns out into the public, Carol said, `Why
don't we get on a soapbox?' That led to what we hope will be a weekly
opportunity for people to exercise their freedom of speech," Davis said.
The soapbox, literally a box on which people can stand, was built by
Davis' husband, Charlie. Davis then received permission from the city to
hold the events in National Oak Park near downtown Alvin.
Friendswood resident Carol Sweeny, who also helped Davis develop the
idea for the soapbox, agreed that there is a need for people to have the
opportunity to express their opinions in a public forum.
She and Davis met several years ago at a meeting of Toastmasters -- an
organization that helps members develop strong public speaking skills
-- and their conversations about the limited number of ways to voice
opinions planted the seed that eventually led to the soapbox.
"One of the limitations in Toastmasters was time. Some issues can cover
volumes, while others were not appropriate for that type of crowd. So
there was still a void," said Sweeny, a massage therapist.
She said that both she and Davis felt that there was a need for a free
speech forum in the area.
"If you can vent your frustrations and somebody listens, it helps,"
The first soapbox event was held Dec. 15 in honor of Bill of Rights Day.
They are now held on a weekly basis.
Weather permitting, the soapbox will be available for anyone wishing to
speak from 3-6 p.m. every Sunday. Anyone wishing to publicly
express a viewpoint is invited to participate.
"We just want it available for anyone who wants to discuss something
important to them," Davis said.
Around 25 people, including 10 speakers, took part in the first soapbox
Although organizers had not intended to start the effort until Jan. 1,
they decided to begin early in honor of Bill of Rights Day.
"When we found out that it was Bill of Rights Day and nobody seemed to
be doing anything, we moved things up a bit. It seemed very
appropriate to launch this freedom-of-speech effort on Bill of Rights
Day," Davis said.
Sweeny added that several people in attendance for the first soapbox
event were new U.S. citizens.
"We had some people from Trinidad who were new U.S. citizens. It was
particularly important on Bill of Rights Day for these new citizens to
see free speech in action," she said.
During the first soapbox afternoon, several people took turns reading
sections of the Bill of Rights. Davis gave her viewpoints on school
uniforms, while Holst spoke on standardized testing in Texas public
Davis considers the first couple of gatherings to be a success and
expects bigger crowds at future ones.
"I thought it was great. We all enjoyed it very much, and after we
distribute more information about soapbox, it will grow into something
better," Davis said.
The forums are held at National Oak Park on the eastern end of downtown
Alvin unless it is booked for other events, she said. Those weeks,
an alternative location will be chosen.
The soapbox can be brought to other areas if someone wants to host a
forum, Davis said. Information on the soapbox can be obtained by
calling Davis at 281-331-6229.
See you at The Soapbox!
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