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Ripken Stadium to host 'The Longest Table' Choose Civility event on May 4

In one of its first large-scale events since kicking off the Choose Civility campaign almost a year ago, Harford County will host “The Longest Table,” next weekend at Ripken Stadium.

The Longest Table will feature exactly that — several tables lined up end-to-end in the breezeway of the ballpark — intended to bring a diverse group of participants together to share stories, experiences and ideas with one another.

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Saqib, McCaffrey and Clayton were among the seven “books” scattered around tables in a conference room Saturday at the Havre de Grace Library, where readers moved from one to the other to “check them out” every 15 minutes.

“We’ll sit down at the long table, break bread, share a meal and talk about some of the questions about Harford County on people’s minds,” said Mary Hastler, CEO of Harford County Public Library, which is presenting the event in partnership with county government.

People will be sat among others they may not know and facilitators at each table will help spark and move along discussions based on a few sample questions, which are still being developed, Hastler said.

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Scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. May 4 at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, tickets for The Longest Table event are $17 and include brunch, but must be reserved by this Sunday, April 28. Tickets can be purchased at www.hcplonline.org.

County Executive Barry Glassman said the event is a good opportunity to bring people of different ethnic, political and religious backgrounds together and “lower the temperature and get everyone to talk to each other.”

Hastler said some of the topics may range from traffic in the county, the budget or schools – “It could be anything. It’s an opportunity to talk about our questions and learn from each other in a nonthreatening, open way and break those barriers down.”

The facilitators will be volunteers from the library system intended to spur the conversations.

“When people sit down to have conversations, we’ve kind of lost that art form, even at the dinner table,” Glassman said. “So I think it’ll take a few facilitators to get people really talking to each other.”

The hope is about 100 people will attended the inaugural event, but that it will continue to grow over the years, Glassman said.“I’d like to see it wrap around the concourse before the end of my term,” he said.

The Longest Table is part of Choose Civility Harford County campaign, which kicked off last June and is designed to promote respect, tolerance and kindness everywhere, including the internet.

About 300 people attended the kickoff breakfast for Harford County's "Choose Civility" campaign Wednesday morning.

Differences that have been exacerbated by the internet and social media, Glassman said, are some of his targets through the Choose Civility campaign, particularly as it relates to young people, who he hopes will choose to take part in The Longest Table discussion.

“The more I read about social media stuff that’s out there, there’s a lot of literature that ties it into adolescent anxiety and depression, some of the mental health things we see also,” he said. “[The Longest Table] is an avenue we can use to help young people to learn to get along with each other and debate and talk about issues together. I think that’ll pay dividends as they become older citizens.”

Hastler said she thinks people will walk away from the event realizing they have a lot more in common than not, and perhaps see certain things in a different way.

“There’s no right or wrong,” she said, “but we all have a perspective to share.”

More information about Choose Civility Harford County is available at www.hcplonline.org/choosecivility, on Facebook , and at all library branches.

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