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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Denver, CO-- Parking all day for the Democratic National Convention is only $5 in the Denver Center for the Perfoming Arts, a discount from the normal $8.

I parked there yesterday to attended the Education and Retirement Security Roundtables, and I've got tickets for Wednesday's sessions on International Relations. Denver's Mayor John Hickenlooper stopped by both sessions yesterday to modestly remind everyone that the Roundtables were his idea: "We wanted this to be a meaningful convention." http://www.2008rmr.org/tickets.asp

There was no real diversity of thought at either session. It wasn't really so much a discussion as it was a mass interview, live sound-bites in what was called a crescendo format.

It was announced that since the convention was green there was no written agenda. Sound through out each session and annoying picture and names of each speaker rotated on large screen TVs.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, NBC News journalist Tom Brokaw, former U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, actor and director Ben Affleck and Google Foundation Executive Director Larry Brilliant are scheduled to participate.

Turnout at both sessions I attended was light, which surprised Mayor Hickenlooper, “We thought we were sold out,” he said at the afternoon Retirement Security session, “traffic must be really bad.”

The gist of the education session: what’s needed now is better testing (“it’s not wrong to teach to the test if you have the right test” said Colorado’s former governor Roy Romer, who has since been Superintendent of Schools in California, now heading Bill Gates “Stronger Schools”), better teachers using 21st century classrooms who are better compensated, with better principals and administrators. Someone from the Piton Foundation asked one of the few questions from the audience that was allowed: “These are the same things we’ve heard for the last 25 years, what’s really changed?”

If I could have asked a question it would have been, “Are we too focused on schools? Instead of stronger schools, don’t we need life-long, self-directed learners? How do we become a learning society, instead of a hedonistic society that rarely reads a book?”

The Retirement Security session message: “Save Social Security, reform pension plans to go back to defined benefit payments.” I asked, “Is the problem that we need to retire the concept of retirement? It’s a recent development, becoming popular in World War II when retirement plans were used as a way to get around wage freezes. From Ben Franklin to Art Linkletter, retirement has just not been the American way.” My question got a surprisingly positive respnse from the panel. “I never want to retire.” “Retirement kills.”

Denver Speakers Corner went very, very well Sunday. I'll post the video as soon as kinks with Google Video are resolved. A reporter for the Guardian Newspaper in London stopped by to tell us about Hyde Park: "there is one member of the House of Lords who attends regularly and speaks there, you really never know who you'll see."

Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher has led the last two sessions, promises to attend regularly in the future and bring some of his Regis students. It's really a lot of fun. Right now, while it's on your mind RSVP for next Sunday if you'd like to be on the steering committee, or just show up next Sunday and help us get this off to a good start, OK? More info and RSVP at http://cocacop.meetup.com/2

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