Chautauqua Institution and the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle are pleased to partner this spring with the U.S. embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, in launching a Zimbabwean chapter of the CLSC. The pilot program evolved from an idea from Chautauquan Sharon Hudson-Dean, the embassy’s public affairs officer and spokesperson, who was granted an “Innovations in Public Diplomacy” award to implement it.
U.S. Ambassador Charles A. Ray will lead the guided reading program, which will include in its membership a “senior group,” comprising several high-ranking Zimbabwe government officials, businesspeople and media figures, and a “junior group” of future leaders. Selected participants will be given Kindles with pre-loaded books.
“We will pilot two groundbreaking modern literary discussion clubs using Kindles to connect Zimbabwean political, opinion and youth leaders,” Hudson-Dean stated in her pitch to the State Department. “With our partner the Chautauqua Institution, we will take a leadership role in Zimbabwean intellectual circles and build strong bridges with key people who will determine, today and tomorrow, the direction of this country.”
With a 92 percent English literacy rate, Zimbabwe is an excellent country for the State Department pilot. Designed to give the Zimbabweans a well-rounded sampling of books that reflect literature, history and leadership, CLSC Zimbabwe’s inaugural reading list will include 12 titles from the last three decades of CLSC selections. Sherra Babcock, director of Chautauqua’s Department of Education, assisted in selecting the books.
“We are so proud to further the CLSC’s international presence, and to partner with the State Department to enhance mutual understanding and open discussion in a developing nation,” Babcock said. “If the program proves successful, we hope other embassies will want to replicate it.”
CLSC alumni classes will be given an opportunity to support this program by designating their class philanthropy toward the dues ($10/year/participant) of the Zimbabwe members.