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Annual Report 2007-2008

Thank you all for taking time out of your busy and precious evenings to join us here, as we begin our 13th. year this autumn of  2008. The beginning of autumn and the end of spring: these are as two parentheses in the annual rhythm of our lives. Summer has brought with it the catastrophes we never expected. These catastrophes we are handling well, with the unity and integrity so intrinsic to America -The qualities which are the backbone that has built America for what she is. I am proud to know of people who have gone from our area to Houston to assist in damage control. Many hands have reached out to support those in need. It is uplifting and endearing to see this.

Of course, those who take advantage of generosity are also a reality of life. Their presence only confirms the existence of generosity as the touch stone. It does not change the fundamentals. These are nerve-racking times. The question many ask: Are they a repeat of a world of distant memory? I was chatting about this with a historian from Northwest University. “Does history repeat its mistakes?"  I asked him. “No," he said,” History does not repeat its mistakes. We make new ones." It is up to us individually to agree or disagree with him. I am merely presenting the idea to you. Do we repeat the mistakes of our forefathers? A friend reminded me of Mark Twain's opinion:" History does not repeat itself. It rhymes!!!"

While we ponder the question and come to our own respective answers, keep in mind the necessity of cultural organizations at times like these. The worst thing that can happen to us is to go into a downward spiral during times of national crisis. Most of us are unable to go to Huston and other areas wrecked by havoc to extend our hands and support. Here, in our own arena, our hands and words of support are equally important. One of our earlier independent scholars had put this concept poetically in a beautiful image from China. "Chinese characters," she said, "are a community. And in a community, each stroke matters." And any one who faintly appreciates the complexity of the Chinese language can fully appreciate the meanings of her words. At The Institute, your neighborhood cultural organization, we repeatedly underline the concept that currency has many different meanings. With non-profit organizations like your neighborhood Institute, currency refers to the work that is put into the community which they feed and which is fed by them. Many organizations have many different yardsticks to measure their progress. In our organization we measure our progress by the work produced by residents of the area as they realize and verbalize their potential and their talents. Should we dub it "talent equity" in today's value driven days? If you will allow me to coin that term, at this time in our joint history let us use it now. What is the talent equity of our community and region? Obviously, potential and talents are an ongoing discovery. I have an interesting quote for you from 'Napoleon' by Emil Ludwig. ...'But what is Happiness?" asks the lady to whom he was talking.  Happiness?" answers Bonaparte. “The highest possible development of my talents." If we agree with this description of happiness or not is personal matter. Development of talent is what we are about at this Institute - Development and showcasing of individual and local talent. There are many venues for the development, discovery and showcasing of talent in a thriving, healthy society. Often individuals will go from one to another in search of their own discovery, searching for the next elusive level of talent, developing their talents to newer levels. Personally, I admire this course of action. How we utilize such venues is really up to the individual. It reveals as much about him or her as does the talent he or she is pursuing to develop. Just as this talent equity is vital both in an individual and in a society, so are the venues that foster these. In turn, your support and presence here and in similar places are vital in fostering these venues. Keep in mind: At times of such turmoil, non-profit, cultural organizations are of even greater importance.

Over the years, The Institute has grown, and those of you who have been with it for all these years are well aware of its growth. Our website has details for review and information for newer visitors. You will see the progression and the journey of all the presenters... and those are our measure of progress. In our migratory movements, our individual and personal ideals, our collective American ideals, remain and continue to unfold. How do they unfold? Perhaps in our hopes and our desires. Perhaps in our imagination and in our scholarship. Perhaps in those avenues we describe as our métier. Your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing we know for sure. It is about discovery. And discovery, the parent of scholarship, is about intellectual curiosity. We were born with it. What we do with it is really up to us. For it is discovery that gives rise to the expression of talent. And scholarship is also about courage. The courage of our scholarship. The very scholarship that brings talent forwards.

Our purpose here, at The Institute, is to encourage and support the efforts of those who verbalize their individual intellectual curiosity in any of the forms provided in our cultures - or, failing to find an adequate form, invent a new one. Our purpose is also to provide the Institute as a forum for the ones who watch and listen to the various presentations, learning and listening and supporting as their selected means of examining their own intellectual curiosity. Here, along the banks of the Mississippi, in the River City Region, is an idyllic and unusual area. Here the Mississippi flows west for 43 miles. As you know, for a few years The Commercial Club has been working towards the cohesive development of the entire region where the Mississippi flows west. It is the largest westward flow in the entire country. A geographical phenomenon, a winding water way, carved by the melting glacial path now filled with water. Those very waters that nourish us. The project to develop the region, connecting these towns and cities along the 43 miles, yet maintaining the individual character of each of the cities and towns, is gathering force in our area. Please add to that momentum. As Babe Ruth said: ' Momentum is the hardest thing to regain.' How developments and movement patterns unfold is a phenomenon in them. Let us participate in this development as we in turn watch it unfold. Will it, in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland, become ' curiouser and curiouser?' What will it take for us to grow cohesively and jointly?

Last year, we moved forward in this development with the beginning of the River City Radio Hour: a cohesive capsule for showcasing local musicians and creative talent already advanced to high standards. On the lines of an old-fashioned radio show, complete with light-hearted comedy, this form is for the times of modern America, its content as varied as the artists on the radio show. Its broadcast both by in person and on our modern technological 'airwaves', - if I may be permitted to use the word 'airways' to apply to the language of computers.  This year the artist showcased at the River City Radio Hour were Frank Claudy, Kai Swansen, Paul Olsen, Dale Haake, Kirk Witherspoon, Ellis Kell, The Lost Nation Station, Susan McPeters and Jonathan Turner, The Chord Busters, The Zloti Village Chorus, Just For Fun, Linda and Reggie Shoesmith with the Barley House Band along with the zanny humor of Steve Couch and Scott Tunnicliff.

The manuscript: "Life on the Mississippi - The New Millennium" being kept at The Institute, and contributed to by all who wish to write in it, has grown new pages in its constantly unfolding flow of life along the waters of The Mississippi. It is, as our events here, history in the making. In the upcoming sessions, we will, again, devote some time to bring the new pages of the manuscript into the light of these wonderful evenings by the fireplace.

A quick note about the fireplace: Please see its architectural detail. Built in the style of the Prairie School made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright, who took the style from William Morris in England and brought it to the next level, developing it further in our prairie land. Another example of how artists inspire artists. This aspect of artists inspiring artists has been discussed by various independent scholars during these evenings over the past years at The Independent scholars’ Evenings. Here we can encourage more artists to inspire other artists.

Key to our events over this past year has been the appointment of  Dale Haake as Poet Laureate of the Quad Cities. Those of you who have heard him read his poetry during the Lion in Winter ISE sessions each February over the years, remember well his enjoyable and thought provoking poetry. Multi talented Dale is an inspiration, like his poetry, to our area. In turn, he will be inspiring others around him. This year, his poetry presentation of Feb. 28th was entitled, " Self-Exiled from Normalcy, A Word of Two on Leap Year's Eve"

Please recognize the work of Ryan Collins, Literary Arts Administrator at Quad City Arts. Jacob Rayapati, who frequently presents his work at these evenings, spoke about the “Power of Myth". In poetry, we had a wonderful presentation by John McBride, past president of the Quint City Poets Association.

We had quite a few first time presenters: Judith Lee, a first time presenter, discussed the poetry of  Rumi, Hafiz and Kabir in ' Mystical metaphors". Another first time presenter was Mike Carroll, Assitt. Chief Engineer of KLJB T.V.  who lead us through “Demystifying Digital TV" to introduce to us all the ramifications of the switch to digital t.v. in February 2009?  Cantor Gale Karp and Talia Alvi opened a fascinating discussion on " Islamic and Jewish Faiths, similarities and contrasts" Heidi Moran-Sallows spoke about her profession and métier, environmental art with the topic " Green Process" This lead us right into a continuation of our ongoing general discussion on The Process of Creativity. Fred McKee, a mentor and coach in Public Speaking talked about the methods of "Effective Communication and Public Speaking" First time presenter Don Banning spoke on " Nature Makes a Come Back" and Sharon Sipp, RN and Certified Massage Therapist spoke about "Glycobiology - The New Frontier of Medicine." Mark McLaughlin read from his new collection titled “ Phantasmapedia, An Alphabestiary of Little Known Demons, Entities, Mutants and Pseudo-Biological Aberrations. “By request we showed the movie " Down the Rabbit Hole" about the laws of quantum physics as applicable to our lives. Again, by popular demand was the return of  Celtic Culture during the month of March, with presentations by Gwen Foulkes on the life, lore and history of  Cornwall, Storyteller Heather Nobling and Bill Fisher Scots - Irish the Best of  Both worlds. Bill Hannan spoke about Celtic Art from past to the present which was accompanied by bagpiper Kirk Witherspoon. Then ending the month of Celtic Culture was the Celtic Highland Games - the history, nature, scope and direction by Lisa Lockheart accompanied by Linda and Reggie Shoesmith.

The whole year has been altogether amazing. It is the richness of our area where the waters of our river flow west.

Abraham Lincoln began his famous “ House Divided” speech in 1858 with a brilliant observation: “ If we could first know where we are going and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.” Judging from the amazing scope of the presentations of this and previous years, The Institute’s Independent Scholars’ Evenings are well on the way of achieving its mission set out in 1996.

The one positive consequence of our recent storm here along the Mississippi is the loads of firewood we have for these and other evenings. Please enjoy them.

For the year ahead, because of the huge success of The River City Radio Hour in bringing out the talent of our area, we are extending Friday evenings for dinner, music and/or dance. Friday evening’s dinners are by reservations only.

The Independent Scholars' evenings will continue on Thursday evenings. All events begin at 7.00 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. Occasionally, when the presenters are invited guests, there will be a door charge. However, due to the current economic and social conditions of our country, we are leaving more open sessions to accommodate impromptu presentation. All of which will be announced over our website: www.qcinstitute.org  and along the display windows of the Fifth Avenue side of the building.  Please express your opinion by your presence as well as a vote.

All further information is at the central desk along the wall between the pillars in the Great Room and in the Library.

In closing, I ask you to please remember again our slogan accentuating the integrity and innovation that built America...

“Quality Control is in your hands."