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Ford Hall Forum: Reaping is a Virtue

By Colin Barry
On October 31, 2012

What do Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt and Robert Frost have in common? All of them, and many more, have spoken at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston. Exclusive to Suffolk University, Boston's Ford Hall Forum is the oldest free public speaking forum in the United States. Since 1908, the Ford Hall Forum has been held throughout the city with the goal to promote free speech and knowledgeable discussions for the community. Forums are held on Thursdays, either at the Modern Theatre, the C. Walsh Theatre, or the Sawyer Library. There have been a variety of public speakers from all kinds of educational institutes and organizations.

How does the Forum work? It works like any other debate; there are two opposing sides, represented by two intelligent people and there is a moderator to make sure that neither one of the sides goes over the time limit. It sounds rather simple, but here is where it is different; any audience member, if time is available, is allowed to ask a question to the debaters. This gives the Forum a more personal edge.

The Ford Hall Forum on Thursday the 18th was a debate called "Reaping is a Virtue", and the question featured was "Is charity a virtuous cause, or is it something that society is forced to do?"

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby moderated the debate and taking the each side were: Deborah Kincade Rambo, President of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese in Boston, and Yaron Brook, the President of the Ayn Rand Institute in California. Rambo was taking the side of charity being a great cause, because of the self-sacrifice one goes through and the ability to help others benefits everyone else. Whereas, Brook was using Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, in which people should help themselves and their personal interests before helping others, and that people should only feel to donate to a charity if it helps them in their personal interests.

Jacoby was able to keep it fair and balanced and the audience's questions were great. One audience member asked, "I usually do things in my own interest, what might inspire me to be more charitable?" A question that Rambo answered by talking about local charities across the city that are not demanding and that can benefit both the audience member and the community.

Another question, which was both for the debaters and the audience was, "Who identifies themselves as libertarian or objectivist?" Mr. Brook explained what he believed a true objectivist is and what charity meant to them.

Mr. Brook finished off the night by saying, "Can I make a case for charity? I think the Ford Hall Forum is a charity worth supporting." He is right, the Ford Hall Forum is great for anyone looking for something insightful and intelligent. The ideas that the speakers and debates bring to the audience are something new or something more developed. There were several audience members getting involved with the debate, which is great for the Forum's goal. The Ford Hall Forum can be entertaining, as well as an intelligent learning experience; plus, it's free.

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