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Meandering Indiana – 11.2

March 3, 2009

I tend to get a little lost driving around Elkhart. Like many towns on a river, it has streets that sometimes twist and end and lie along a diagonal. Just days after my virtual meander there, President Obama made Elkhart the most talked-about county in Indiana. The Elkhart Truth (or “eTruth” online) told the whole story, but I think we all know what happened: Elkhart, Indiana, became the epicenter of national politics because of its economic woes.

What else is special about Elkhart?

In the 1990s, Elkhart was a host community for the Indiana Humanities Council’s ASIA IN US exhibit, highlighting the ties between Indiana and Asia. This time last year, the council was again taking a closer look at Elkhart County because of our focus on immigration. Eye2theWorld, an educational organization in Goshen (the county seat and home of Goshen College) received a grant to examine Elkhart County’s new and surprising diversity due to the growth of its Hispanic population.  Two projects, an oral history of six Latino citizens and a conference on immigration, were sponsored under their leadership.

The council, in partnership with the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University, will be back with a regional workshop on sustainability and economic development for Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties.

I could not leave Elkhart County without a nod to our friends at the Middlebury Community Public Library. The county has many good libraries, actually, but director Terry Rheinheimer continues to amaze us with the well-thought-out programs her library provides. Libraries all over the country have been a center for resources in the current economic climate, with public computer stations, computer training, GED preparation, and database access. Middlebury does all that and also offers excellent book discussion programs, as it has for years, often donating sets of books to the Indiana Humanities Council for reuse and recirculation. Their latest, typically challenging series is called Love and Forgiveness in the Presence of the Enemy, yet another dilemma for our times.

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