Looking back and looking forward

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Last year, the Springfield Public Forum celebrated its 80th anniversary with an ambitious schedule and a desire to find new ways of serving our community.

Overall, the Forum made great strides in building name recognition, brand and community relationships and partnerships with local colleges, museums, the public schools, libraries and area businesses. We served more than 450 members and a record 9,000+ attendees.

Some big names came to Springfield, and the community excitement they generated resulted in increased awareness of the Forum brand and its purpose: to provide opportunities for learning that are free to the public and stimulate discourse within the greater Springfield area.

Launching the Forum’s first-ever spring program, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke on May 1 to a full house. The popularity of the event resulted in a move from the Forum’s traditional venue, Springfield Symphony Hall, to the MassMutual Center. Lively and engaging, the Woz event brought us many new Forum fans.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor also prompted a move the MassMutual Center on Sept. 9 for an overflow crowd of 3,500 that included more than 1,000 area college students. The Justice did not disappoint, and it was hard to tell who was enjoying themselves more—the Justice or the audience members.

The Forum provided additional opportunities to fulfill its vision of being the source of programming that encourages learning and positive change: Mark Shields and David Brooks from PBS on Sept. 15 showed us that perspectives from both sides of the aisle can have a civil conversation; Ambassador Nicholas Burns on Sept. 30 helped us to understand the multiple conflicts in the Middle East; and Dinosaur Hunter Paul Sereno brought families to an educational event together on Nov. 22. Working with the Springfield schools, youth Advocate Wes Moore closed out the 2015 season. His book, The Other Wes Moore, is part of the 10th grade curriculum and the video of the Forum event will be made available to supplement future class lessons.

We truly believe that “conversations that change minds, change the world” and hope that our programs fulfill that mission.

Looking to build on our success, the Forum Board’s goal for 2016 is to drive value for our sponsors, increase brand awareness, reach all ages, and increase our ability to provide more personalized service to our members and sponsors. Stay tuned for this year’s speaker announcements!

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