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"This I Believe" is an engaging website aimed at creating "a public dialogue about belief — one essay at a time," at thisibelieve.org. It is also the title of a new Encore class at San Juan College beginning Jan. 14 taught by Wendy Watkins.

"This I Believe" began as a radio show in the 1950s, hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

"Luminaries like Albert Einstein, Helen Keller and Studs Terkel along with thousands of less well-known but equally insightful individuals crafted essays of personal philosophy," Watkins said.

In 2004, this conversation was renewed through a nonprofit organization that encourages individuals to write, share and discuss their core values. According to thisibelieve.org, "the goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own."

The Encore class invites the community to join this international conversation and to express — individually and collectively — personal values and beliefs.

"Participants will work toward crafting an essay that reflects something true and meaningful about themselves, with the option of submitting completed essays online to the National Library of Congress where they will be permanently archived," Watkins said.

Watkins is a former New Mexico resident and taught English and writing at Santa Fe Community College. She now lives in Cortez, Colo., where she regularly writes about the local food movement. A lifelong lover of language, she believes in the power of words to shape beliefs and in the strength of beliefs to sculpt language.

"Consider this class an exercise in self-discovery, civic and civil conversation, and in the craft of clear, clean writing — and a terrific start to 2017," she said,

Starting Jan. 14 and continuing through March 11, the Encore class will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. every other Saturday. Students need to register by Jan. 5 to order the curriculum.

All Encore classes are designed for adults 50 and older but are open to anyone 18 and older. For New Mexico residents 65 and older, the class cost is $5.75. For residents under 65, each class is $46.75 and for non-residents, the cost is $146.75.

For full details on Encore classes, including how to register, go sanjuancollege.edu/Encore or call San Juan College’s Community Learning Center at 505-566-3214.

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