SCARBOROUGH — “Let’s Talk America” Facilitator Sam Kelley described the public forum that meets monthly in the Scarborough Public Library as “the only place in town you’re going to be able to have a civil political discussion.”

Meeting on the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. in the library’s conference room, “Let’s Talk America” is for people who are passionate about the state of the country and the world to meet and talk without fear of being judged, said Kelley.

Each month, there is a different topic debated. In February, Kelley said that the group discussed who the Democratic party should nominate for the presidential race.

“It’s a dedicated group of people,” he said. “Some come and go — some have been been coming since it started. It’s a civil conversation; we go around the table, and everyone has a minute or so to make comments. Then, after initial comments, we have talking sticks, so if you want to be someone who speaks, you raise the stick, and I write your name down and we go in order. Everyone has two to three minutes. No interruptions allowed.”

Kelley said he has been hosting the discussion in Scarborough for 14 years. Before that, he was hosting a similar event in Portland. He said he enjoys preparing for a new topic each month.

“I’m a political junkie and most of the subject matter revolves around politics,” he said. “It’s interesting to prepare. I like to do a little studying of the issue and then hear what other people say.”

He said he hopes that more Republicans, Independents, or people who lean towards the right end of the political spectrum will join the group.

Fred Prince, one of the newest members of the group, said that he had wished he’d known about “Let’s Talk America” years ago.

“It’s fun because it gives me a chance to discuss various topics in a calm setting,” he said. “It’s informative for the people there don’t shoot from the hip. You better know your facts. It’s unique because I don’t know of any other group that has been at it this long and are still anxious to get together each month.”

Scarborough resident Carl Toney, who said he has been attending Kelley’s discussions since they were in Portland, described “Let’s Talk America” as “one of Scarborough’s most treasured possessions.”

In an email he wrote, “The importance and the contributions of the group, and the reason I continue to be a member, are: one, a welcoming and neutral space for people to come and discuss issues and questions of personal and/or collective import; two, an opportunity to talk with, listen to, and learn from a diverse group of individuals, in terms of age, gender, race and socio-economic status; three, a chance to meet people from the community I would otherwise likely never get to know. And, most importantly, four: address and consider important (local/state/national) social and civic issues in an accepting and civil way — we talk with each; we don’t argue and shout at each other.”

Th group doesn’t discriminate against anyone, said Kelley. He said people as young as 15 and 16 to people in their 80s have attended.

Members can send topics they want to talk about at future meetings to Kelley, he said. The group then votes on the top five ideas and the winner is announced via email.

Russell Coon, a Scarborough resident who has been attending “Let’s Talk America” for the past five years, said that he first heard about the group while talking to someone in the town office parking lot.

“They told me about ‘Let’s Talk America’ and (said) I should come to a monthly meeting,” said Coon. “The meetings and discussions over the five-year period have been great. The subject matter we choose to talk about is mostly political and mostly left leaning. But I always leave the meeting with a more complete view of the issue than I went into the meeting with. We are actively looking for right leaning individuals to broaden input to the group.”

People interested in attending can email Kelley at [email protected] to submit topic ideas. They can also call him at (207) 650-1814 with any questions.

The next meeting will be on Thursday, March 5. Kelley said the topic is yet to be determined.

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