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   SATURDAY, MARCH 29, 2003


James Earl Jones speaks at church

Staff Writer

HILLTOWN – With the United States and its coalition of the willing engaged in a war in Iraq‚ prolific‚ 72-year-old‚ Mississippi-born actor James Earl Jones used a Hilltown speaking engagement Friday evening to stress the importance of understanding culture in circumstances that otherwise defy comprehension.


“When there are mysteries or dilemmas or questions in the areas of politics‚ history‚ sociology‚ even psychology‚ the answers‚ I believe‚ lie in the cultural‚” Jones told a crowd of more than 500 gathered at the Calvary Church in Hilltown for the Indian Creek Foundation’s fifth annual spring fundraising event.

“Culture is constantly reinventing itself‚ culture is constantly reinventing us‚ and whether we know it or not‚ we are constantly reinventing culture‚” said Jones‚ of African‚ Cherokee and Irish descent.

The foundation offers a variety of services and assistance programs to people with developmental disabilities. In addition to raising funds for its programming‚ said executive director Dave Crosson‚ the event is geared toward bringing a diversity of speakers to the community to appeal to a wide variety of interests.

Jones spoke both academically and practically about culture‚ recounting how it has been misinterpreted over the years and how it has taken various forms throughout history‚ from the Renaissance through the Industrial Revolution to today.

“What is considered reasonable varies from culture to culture‚” he said.

Jones pointed to a case in New York in which a Danish couple was arrested for neglect after leaving their baby in a stroller outside a store they had just entered. The event‚ commonplace in the couple’s native Copenhagen‚ caused an international stir.

The goal‚ he said‚ is to overcome the barriers that block different groups from accepting the culture of others‚ nationally‚ internationally and globally.

“When you work with it‚ when you work at it‚ cultures can enrich others. Rising to that challenge‚ and doing it well‚ can be our best legacy for generations to come‚” he said.

With respect to the United States‚ Jones said‚ there is much to be done before its various cultures are joined rather than divided.

“Not on purpose. No society becomes a melting pot on purpose‚” he said. “It’s not an agenda‚ it just happens.”

Of his own culture‚ Jones said he finds little purchase.

“It’s really just a fantasy. It’s as much as a fantasy as saying I want to go back to Africa and be an African‚” he said. “I can’t speak Gaelic‚ for crying out loud.”

During audience questioning‚ Jones clung to his role as baseball philosopher Terence Mann‚ from the film “Field of Dreams‚” as his most cherished movie role.

“He’s as much of a philosopher as I’d ever want to be‚” Jones said. “If there is a role that defines who I would want to be‚ I would say Terence Mann.”

Speaking on the United States’ war against Iraq‚ Jones said there is no easy answer‚ but he suggested that conflict builds character.

“That’s a hard (question) because many of us are now trying to rationalize the point of view we took‚ whether we were for or against the war‚” he said. “You’ve got to understand all the elements that go into it.”

Referencing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s quest for a separate state‚ Jones said‚ “I’m sure that‚ once they come out of it they will be a greater society because of it‚ because of the friction. Š I think the crossroads offer you much more productivity than the back roads.”

The foundation presented Jones with a framed picture of the Statue of Liberty‚ taken by foundation employee Pat McNulty.

Injecting a moment of levity prior to the presentation‚ Jones declared‚ “Woo-hoo!”

Elliot (left) and Sam (right) gather with photographer Pat McNulty (second from left)
and James Earl Jones at the Spring Event. The three presented Jones with a framed photo of the Statutue of Liberty after his presentation.

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