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Diversity: the art of thinking independently together."

— Malcolm Forbes

Far be it from me to argue with the likes of the late publisher of Forbes magazine. But isn't the true benefit of diversity derived not from the act of thinking but the more arduous task of doing?

After all, what good is a bunch of people sitting around thinking independent thoughts but not putting them together toward a common purpose? That's not the definition of diversity. It's the definition of public transit.

Or, better still, it's the definition of Congress. At least strangers on public transportation are going somewhere.

My point is not to take another stab at the unwillingness of our nation's lawmakers to model the value of compromise. My purpose is to discuss the merits of hearing — and acting upon — diverse perspectives of any community, particularly our own.

Five weeks ago, we announced in a Sunday editorial the debut of our new Editorial Board Community Member program. As we noted, we recognize our own shortcomings in terms of diversity — age, gender, geographic and otherwise. In response we are inviting two members of the community, from various sectors — including education, business, nonprofits, etc. — geographic areas and demographic groups to sit on the editorial board for staggered six-month terms.

These individuals will take part in weekly editorial board meetings, interviews with community leaders and election candidates and assist in the development of editorial positions. During their time in the program, they will be regarded as full voting members of the board and will have an opportunity to write about their experience, if they want to do so.

In announcing the program, we also introduced our first community member: Lisa Carre?, regional director of 10,000 Degrees, a nonprofit that provides college access, financial advice and other scholarship help to disadvantaged students seeking college degrees. In addition to her many other activities, Carre?, a Forestville resident, also serves as chairwoman of the Sonoma County Fair.

She joined Sonoma Media Investments CEO Steve Falk, Assistant Editorial Director Jim Sweeney and myself on the editorial board and is already making significant contributions through her insights, questions and observations.

I mention this because it's time to solicit applications for our second community board member who, we hope, will join us in early April.

The goal is to hear from those who live and work in areas not represented by the permanent members of the editorial board. (All of us currently live in various parts of Santa Rosa.) But no one will be excluded based on where he or she lives. We also will be looking for residents who represent a variety of political viewpoints. For reasons we hope are obvious, elected officials and those who work directly for politically involved organizations are discouraged from applying. Our goal is to hear from those whose only real objective is to learn more about the internal workings of The Press Democrat, to gain insight into the community and to share a common appreciation for Sonoma County, this place we call home.

If you're interested in applying or nominating someone, please send a cover letter and resume to me paul.gullixson@pressdemocrat.com. We look forward to hearing from you — and benefiting from your ideas.

Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat. Email him at paul.gullixson@pressdemocrat.com.

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