More than 340 rural leaders from across the country gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota, in late June for the 2011 Gathering of the National Rural Assembly.

Participants networked and discussed a wide array of rural – and more broadly American – issues: education, green energy, socioeconomic development, and many topics of policy. Here’s a summary of the Assembly’s invited talks, panel discussions, and working groups.

Tuesday, June 28

  • After several sessions early in the day, the Assembly kicked off with nine presenters speaking their “Rural Truth to Power.” Talks covered issues ranging from transportation to sustainable energy to political efficacy and action.
  • Navy Captain Wayne Porter and Marine Colonel Mark Mykleby spoke at dinner about their national security plan, “A National Strategic Narrative.” Their reasoning rooted in history and the philosophy of science, these military men championed education and sustainable energy – societal depth – in the US over international military might.

Marine Col. Mark Mykleby and Navy Capt. Wayne Porter led Tuesday’s evening session

Wednesday, June 29

  • Kenneth Johnson of the Carsey Institute said that the “biggest story coming out of Census 2010, not just for rural America but for all of America,” is the growing diversity of the nation’s population from children to seniors. For a nation where 46% of people under 18 are “minority,” roundtable panelists called for an “asset-based” approach to our youth.
  • Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said that her organization aims to close the gap in broadband access between rural and urban communities. More fundamentally, rural citizens are just as “significant” as urban ones.
  • Filmmaker and Fulbright Fellow Heather Courtney presented her new documentary Where Soldiers Come From, a film about the people of rural America and the difficulties they face surrounding military service.
  • Rural champions were honored to celebrate their lifelong commitment to rural policy and advocacy.

Kenneth Johnson’s report on changes in rural demography emphasized diversity

Thursday, June 30

  • The leaders of broadband network startups gave lessons on how to follow their models, emphasizing the applications of their work to sustainable development.
  • The Center for Rural Affairs’ Chuck Hassebrook called for reconsideration of the country’s current agriculture policies. Instead of funding large, institutional farms, he said, the government needs to pump money into small businesses and start-ups.
  • Center for Rural Strategies President and Steering Committee Chair Dee Davis gave a closing plenary, calling for Assembly participants to apply what they’d learned toward the ultimate goal of national inclusiveness.

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the agency will boost investment in rural broadband

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