|Julie Christensen of Castle Dale.|
Julie Christensen, a Castle Dale resident, recently took part in a PBS documentary hosted by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. "By The People, America in the World" was the first in a series of documentaries to explore the American public's knowledge and awareness of our country's role in the post September 11 world.
The University of California at Berkeley selected the participants from a random cross section of America's population. These people then received briefing booklets to read before they undertook the trip to Philadelphia to act as delegates for the American people. The delegates were from all age groups, backgrounds and education levels.
Upon arrival, the group was divided into 24 small groups and within 30 minutes of arriving in Philadelphia, the delegates were having dinner and orientation. They were given a schedule of the weekends activities, there was so much that had to be done, the delegates did not have any free time to act the tourist. Christensen said, "I was so tired, but it was the most interesting, exciting thing I've done in a long time. I feel very fortunate to have had this experience."
Christensen, who was among the 344 people, representing 344 cities around the nation, stayed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the Delaware River. She said, "The view from the room was breathtaking, I could see the USS New Jersey battleship, which is now a museum on the river." The trip was funded in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Public Broadcasting System and all the delegates were treated to an all expense paid weekend in Philadelphia.
The breakout sessions, which began on Saturday morning and continued throughout that day, were facilitated by moderators from the National Issues Forum, a non-partisan, nationwide network of educational organizations that convene local public forums. NIF is non-biased and the moderators do not advocate a specific solution, rather they educate the public in an effort to help the citizens make more informed and thought out decisions.
National Security was discussed in the first breakout session. The delegates were also shown videos outlining and explaining four different approaches that can be used by the US to deal with current situations. These videos opened the subject to discussion of the choices available to America and its role in world situations.
During the weekend, the breakout sessions would cover different topics, such as foreign policy, economics and world hunger. Their day would start with wake-up at 6:15 a.m. and would continue throughout the day, even continuing discussions during meals. The entire group of delegates were able to meet a panel of experts in these areas.
The groups then met for the filming of the documentary. They questioned Ambassador Richard Haass of the United States Department of State and Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Securty Advisor, about the issues that each group felt pertinent to America's role in world affairs. Each group selected a spokesperson to ask the questions of Ambassador Haass. Each spokesperson had an opportunity to ask an initial question and follow-up questions to clarify the answers. These questions dealt mostly with the Iraq situation and background information involved with making the decisions on how American should proceed.
Filming of the documentary took place Sunday evening and was aired live on PBS. Christensen said, "The experience was one I'll never forget and I'd do it again in a heartbeat."