Here is the premise of our panel discussion:  The middle ground, where has it gone?

In this day of fractious, polarized segments of society, be it related to politics, religion, health, gender identity, ethnicity, immigration, education, taxation or numerous other topics, the panel will explore the seeming disappearance of civil discourse and rational discussion, heretofore anchored by “those in the middle,” who have historically shown a propensity for listening to all sides and engaging in the search for middle ground solutions to society’s most vexing problems.  The panel will opine as to how, why and where the “middle ground” has gone and in turn, the possible pathways for a return to what was once considered a hallmark of our democratic way of life, the ability to see the other person’s point of view and achieve common ground allowing the forward movement of society for the greater good.


Meet the Moderator & Panelists

John Pacheco, Moderator – Mr. Pacheco, a twenty year resident of Dripping Springs and ardent supporter of the library, is editor of the Dripping Springs Century news.  Regarding that role, he states, “it is my objective to shine the spotlight on various facets of our community that would not receive coverage otherwise, inform in an entertaining manner, and enhance a sense of community as we experience unprecedented growth.”

Emily J. Hooks – Founder of Forgiveness Academy and author of “The Power of Forgiveness.”  Emily travels widely, sharing her story and a message of true and absolute healing through forgiveness.  She is a frequent facilitator of workshops, seminars, individuals and groups, on the process of healing through true forgiveness. She will be speaking at the 2018 SXSW Conference in March, conducting a session titled, Turning Pain into Power Through Forgiveness, which explores how we can learn to leverage our painful experiences to become the most empowered version of ourselves. Emily is a Texas native with degrees from Tarleton State University and the University of Texas at Dallas. She has a son, Zach, who lives in the Denver area. In her words, “As we heal, so does the world.”

Kevin O. Cokley, Ph.D. – Dr. Cokley is at the University of Texas, where he serves as a Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and the African and African Diaspora Studies Department. He is a UT System Distinguished Teaching Professor and holds the Oscar and Anne Mauzy Regents Professorship for Educational Research and Development. He also is Director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis.  His research can be broadly categorized in the area of African American psychology.  His published work has appeared in numerous professional journals, and in major media outlets on topics such as Blacks’ rational mistrust of police, police shootings of Blacks, the aftermath of Ferguson, the use of school vouchers, racial disparities in school discipline, and Black students’ graduation rates.  He recently published a work titled The Myth of Black Anti-intellectualism, which is dedicated to his children, Asa and Isis, and his wife, Dr. Germine “Gigi” Awad.

Nathan Brown – Former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, Nathan was the featured author at Pouring Over Books in 2015.  A poet and singer/songwriter, he performs at venues across the U.S.   Author of numerous volumes of poetry, his most recent release is an edited trilogy by fellow poet, Ezra E. Lipschitz, including I Shouldn’t SayArse Poetica, and the final piece, Apocalypse Soon.  As of this writing, we are not at all certain Mr. Lipschitz actually exists, although Nathan insists otherwise.  For many years, Nathan taught at the University of Oklahoma and now resides in Wimberley with his wife, Ashley.  He believes strongly that poetry “should bring back the hint of a smile and the hope for a good story . . . poems unafraid of making sense . . . poems that carry us to a better place.”

Rita Anderson is a member of Dramatists Guild, Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, International Center for Women Playwrights, and ScriptWorks. She has an MFA Poetry and an MA Playwriting. A published and award-winning playwright and poet, Rita went on scholarship to The O’Neill. Her play, Frantic is the Carousel, was the National Partners American Theatre nominee, and Rita won the Ken Ludwig Playwriting Award, the top national prize from The Kennedy Center for “Best Body of Work.” Rita has had 50 productions to include several each in NYC, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Detroit, Cincinnati—and in London, England and Paris, France. Early Liberty, internationally published, is on the publishers “Best Selling Plays” list.

Olga Campos Benz – Unfortunately Ms. Campos Benz was not be able to attend due to unavoidable and unexpected family emergency.  Ms. Benz has a distinguished record in the television news field spanning many years.  She recently published a novel, It’s News To Me.