Keynote speaker Lewis Feldstein is the president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, but more importantly, he's the author (with Robert Putnam) of Better Together: Restoring the American Community. The Alumni Auditorium is almost full for his speech, and there are people watching on streaming video from Manchester, Montpelier, Newport and Brattleboro.
He mainly talked about social capital, i.e. community, and why it's important. "It's not just a kumbaya, la de da, isn't that nice, let's all have community," he says. "There are real benefits."
According to Feldstein, people in well-connected communities are safer. "The higher the social capital, the safer the neighborhood."
They're healthier. "Being alone is deadly," he says. "Being absolutely alone will literally kill you. There's a huge amount of public health data that bears this out."
And there's real economic benefit in connecting our communities. That doesn't necessarily mean that everyone has to be best buddies. Weak ties — people on the edges of our social networks — are extremely important, especially when you're looking for a job. "This is so common, so powerful, that you can actually find economists who can tell you the value of your Rolodex."
He showed some on education, social capital and the murder rate, and explained Robert Putnam's theory about the correlation between road rage and tax evasion.
So how do we build community? "Whatever we do, the net's going to be part of the solution," he says. "It's got to be."
Let's get to work...