Dialogue Opens Ears and Minds

November 22, 2006

Author: Michael Kruse

Source: St. Petersburg Times


SPRING HILL - To the small house called the Lake House on Kenlake Avenue came the people of the county. On a windy, jacket-cold night, they came to talk about freedom of speech and misinformation, and religious and ethnic intolerance. The title of the forum was a question: "Is Hernando County Truly a Melting Pot?"

The Human Rights Coalition of Hernando County brought together a 13-person panel here Monday in the aftermath of the recent local spat of public Muslim-bashing. The panel had whites and blacks and Muslims and Christians and Jews and doctors and pastors and politicians. The emcee was coalition head Walter L. Dry.

He said the evening was about listening. And learning.

In the room were nine tables of eight and then two rows of chairs near the rear. The meeting hall was mostly full and the crowd was mostly white.

The first topic was freedom of speech.