Alabama pastor to the suicidal: ‘Banish the thought of destruction. It’s not the answer’, ‘Many’ of us want to help


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

CELEBRITY SUICIDES: WHY WOULD THEY DO IT?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to an article out of World Magazine. Sad news as two well-known public figures, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain, who both had successful careers and who both recently committed suicide.

The article goes on to say, the same week those suicides took place, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention released a distressing report that, over the last two decades, U.S. suicide rate has risen by 25 percent and, among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people in the United States ended their lives. That means there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides.

DR. REEDER: Here are these two celebrities — rich, famous, acclaimed yet empty in life. One of our issues today is we keep telling people that more money, more power, more applause, more fame will make your life fulfilled. Then why is it that celebrities have the highest rate of drug use? Why do they seek out therapists more than any other class in our society?

The answer is not found in more money, more possessions, more power and more fame; the answer’s found in your soul and the hope that transcends all of the challenges of life in a fallen world.

THE DOUBLE-EDGE SWORD OF SUICIDE IN TODAY’S CULTURE

At the same time that we cringe at the skyrocketing rate of suicide, we are attempting to normalize suicide as a therapeutic act through doctor-assisted suicide or medically-assisted suicide. If suicide is simply a therapeutic act that the medical profession now ought to engage in and embrace and make money off of, then why does the rise of suicide cause within us a revulsion? We know it’s not right.

There are not many things more difficult for me as a pastor than ministry in the lives of families in which suicide has taken place. As much as we would decry, rightly so, suicide as a usurpation of the divine prerogative — the Lord gives life and the Lord takes away life and blessed be the name of the Lord — and the landscape of suffering that suicide leaves behind in the lives of family and loved ones and friends, as we see all of that, the fact is the contributing factors to the act of suicide in our culture today are staggering.

TEMPORARY DESPAIR: WHAT IS IT AND WHAT CAN HELP?

I agree with the one pastor who said this is one of the most difficult things because people took an irreversible remedy to a temporary problem — the temporary problem of emotional distress or chemical imbalance. The fall and the sin not only affected us spiritually and emotionally, but it also affected us chemically and, therefore, it is appropriate to treat some things with chemical therapy.

Interestingly, the rise in chemical treatments of suicidal emotions has actually not reduced the number of suicides, but the number of suicides with the advancement of chemical and drug treatments has actually increased.

Now why? Any chemical treatment has to be repeated. Sometimes, we’re treating some suicidal tendencies as a chemical issue when, in reality, it’s a spiritual issue. That doesn’t mean we do away with those treatments because sometimes it is a physical issue. Sometimes, it’s a spiritual issue.

Now, in most of life, when I make wrong decisions, I can reverse that wrong decision but, in the case of suicide, once you’ve made that decision, you can’t turn it back around. Now, if I get depressed and think that a drunken spree will get me out of it as an answer to my depression, I’ll eventually sober up but if my answer to my depression is suicide, I can’t walk that one back

In ministry in families where there is suicide, it needs to be done very carefully because there are multiple factors at work, all the way from chemical issues, physical issues, wrong use of drugs, self-medicating with drugs and influences in the culture.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

Our culture is telling everybody that the whole goal of life is to be happy. I am grateful for happiness, but happiness is built upon happenstance, which is directly related to circumstances. What the Bible commends to us is joy, which transcends circumstances — circumstances of adversity and circumstances of prosperity and success.

What we have is joy in the Lord. You rejoice in the Lord in the midst of everything because you know He’s at work. The loss of the transcendent that comes through a relationship with Christ over the difficulties and challenges in a fallen world in relationships — in your physiology, in your body, your psychosomatic dynamics in your life — that sense of a joy that is there has now been replaced by a promise of happiness. And, if you don’t have happiness, then in despair, they sometimes are influenced just to end their life. Social media has also produced impact in the lives of people.

And now we’re in a society that belittles the hope that addresses the difficulties of life and that is the victory and triumph of Christ in all of the arena of life. Without the message of hope, all of that is contributing, I believe, to this rise in suicide.

CHRISTIAN HOPE — AND ACTION — CAN COMBAT DESPAIR AND SUICIDE

That world and life view is the answer to reversing this rise in suicide. We do not commit suicide — what we do is commit life. We don’t commit murder against others, nor against ourselves. There is hope through the power of the Gospel to address spiritual and emotional issues and we want to speak the truth in love to one another. By God’s redeeming grace, we can do it and, in God’s common grace, we would pray that that would pervade society.

CULTURE OF DEATH COMES FROM THE FATHER OF DEATH AND LIES

TOM LAMPRECHT:  John 8:44 — we ended yesterday’s program with this verse but let me take you back here again. Christ, speaking of the devil, he said, “He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth because there is no truth in him. He lies; it is consistent with his character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Harry, is there a lie from the lips of Satan into the ear of these people who are contemplating suicide?

DR. REEDER: Tom, I am not able to be there at the moment when the person makes this decision to end their life. I don’t know whether it’s a chemical misfire, or an emotional despair or spiritually deceived, but I do know this. The propagation of a death culture throughout our culture that impacts this statistic of suicide, that is what Satan has brought.

Whether it’s the destruction of life in the womb, destruction of life at the end of life in active euthanasia, or whether it is the normalizing of suicide, I do know the death culture is the product of the lie of Satan.

LET’S WORK ON PROMOTING LIFE — NOW AND ETERNAL

What we want to do is be about life: life that is in Christ, a life that promotes life in the lives of others. If you know someone whose loved one committed suicide or if you know a family where someone committed suicide, don’t step in with just pat answers. You need to step into the lives of survivors with thoughtfulness.

It may have been a medical issue, it may have been confusion that came from self-medication, it may have come off a period of time of abandonment — with all of those contributing factors, there may be a singular answer or they may be multiple answers. And what we need to do is to step in with hope that is found in Christ to those who are the survivors of loved ones who committed suicide and minister to them.

THOSE WHO ARE ON THE BRINK, WE CAN HELP

I also want to say to all who are considering suicide, there may be physical and medical reasons that you are contemplating this and there are doctors who will thoughtfully help you. It may be a spiritual issue in your life. There are many of us as pastors and friends and Christians who want to minister to you.

At this moment, right now, banish the thought of destruction. It’s not the answer. Pursue the reality that there is an answer and pursue that reality in the right direction. Is it a spiritual issue in your soul? Then we want to bring the hope of the Gospel. Is it a chemical issue or a medical issue that’s taking place in your body and brain? Then there are people who are wise who can help you there — medical doctors who are thoughtful and will minister to you.

There is hope and the hope is in life, not death, because there is One who died for you that you can have life everlasting. Ultimately, your best days can be ahead of you in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

22 mins ago

‘Tuberville has seized the momentum’: Internal polling shows 16% gap in U.S. Senate primary

Yellowhammer News has obtained a new internal polling memo from Tommy Tuberville’s U.S. Senate campaign that shows the former Auburn University head football coach gaining 10% since June and stretching his lead well into double digits.

The memo summarizes the results of a survey conducted by Moore Information Group, a well-respected national polling firm, from August 11-13. 400 likely 2020 Republican primary voters in Alabama made up the sampling of respondents. The poll’s margin of error was 5%.

The polling memo details, “The data have been weighted to reflect expected turnout demographics for the 2020 primary election.”

“Tuberville leads all candidates with 33%, with support for both Congressman Bradley Byrne (17%) and former Chief Justice Roy Moore (15%) in the mid-teens,” the memo states.

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According to the survey, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, at 13%, barely trailed Moore.

State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) came in at 1%.

Tuberville, at 23%, was leading the field in his internal poll conducted by the same firm in June. That month’s results showed Moore in second at 18%, followed by Byrne (16%), Merrill (8%) and Mooney (2%). Moore and Merrill had not yet officially announced their bids at that time.

One interesting nugget emphasized in the memo is that the August survey asked respondents whether they were fans of Auburn’s or the University of Alabama’s football programs.

Some have predicted that Tuberville’s Auburn past, given the intense rivalry between the programs, could hurt his statewide campaign.

However, he was the number-one choice of Tide fans in this latest poll, gaining 33% of their vote. Moore (17%) was the next most popular candidate with Bama enthusiasts.

Then, among Auburn fans, Tuberville did have a marked increase over his overall ballot number. Among those who cheer on the Tigers, 43% said they would vote for him, with Merrill (18%) the next highest in that demographic.

The memo also revealed some geographical differences, including the obvious reality that Byrne is leading in the district he represents in Congress, AL-01. Tuberville led all other congressional districts, besides AL-02, where he was tied with Moore.

At 38%, Tuberville performed best out of all candidates with those respondents identifying immigration as their top priority.

A look at name identification and favorability numbers also looked encouraging to Tuberville’s campaign.

While 97% of respondents had heard of Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice’s numbers are still under water — and not appearing to improve. 31% view Moore favorably, while 56% view him unfavorably.

Tuberville had the next highest name identification level by a wide margin at 87%. An impressive 54% of respondents viewed him favorably, compared to 12% unfavorably.

Byrne and Merrill’s numbers in this regard were very similar.

Byrne had 56% name identification, with 31% viewing him favorably and 7% unfavorably.

Merrill had 54% name identification, with 29% viewing him favorably and 5% unfavorably.

In a hotly contested race like this, it can also be important to see which candidates are popular with the supporters of another candidate. As the primary gets closer, some voters may choose to go with their “second choice” if he or she believes that candidate has a better chance of winning — or if their primary choice disappoints them.

Testing a second choice ballot, Tuberville (23%) led in this category, too, followed by Byrne (17%), Merrill (16%), Moore (11%) and Mooney (3%).

In a statement, Erik Iverson, president and managing partner of Moore Information Group, said, “Coach Tuberville has seized the momentum and stretched his lead to double digits in a crowded primary, and that’s no small feat.”

“Alabama Republican primary voters are backing Coach, a political outsider who’s been a staunch supporter of President Trump from the beginning, over the politicians running against him. Doug Jones should be very nervous,” he concluded.

You can view the full polling memo here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Jones: Israel shouldn’t have barred Omar, Tlaib; Trump’s Tuesday comments ‘imbecilic’

BIRMINGHAM — Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Tuesday delivered the keynote address at an event entitled, “Opportunities for Technology Partnerships Between Alabama and Israeli Businesses.”

During his speech and in comments to the media afterwards, Jones made it clear that he is generally a supporter of Israel and values its friendship with the United States and the state of Alabama.

Enjoying the U.S. Senate’s August recess and back from his recent trip to San Diego, CA, Jones opened by joking, “I don’t know what the weather is in Israel, but I know it’s hot as hell here.”

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He highlighted the importance of international trade and relationships during his 16-minute speech, reiterating his apprehension about ongoing tariff tensions with China, which he called a “rogue” nation.

However, given the topic of the event, the conversation ultimately came back to a much different nation: Israel.

After extolling the significant bipartisan merits of fostering economic development partnerships between the U.S. and Israel, as well as Alabama and Israel, Jones concluded his remarks by addressing “the elephant in the room” — the ongoing, heavily publicized controversy involving Israel, U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and President Donald Trump.

Tlaib and Omar last week were barred from entering Israel on a congressional trip after the Israeli government learned of the freshmen Democratic lawmakers’ specific plans in the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended this decision, explaining that a 2017 law denies entry to supporters of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement.

The situation with Tlaib has gained extra attention, as she said she wanted to visit her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank, but, after being granted permission by the Israeli government to do so on humanitarian grounds, Tlaib refused to travel to the country.

This led Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to state that Tlaib’s “hatred of Israel is stronger than her love of her grandmother.”

Trump has been active on social media and in comments to the press attacking Tlaib and Omar over the fiasco.

On Tuesday, he broadened his comments, saying, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

The president further said Omar “is a disaster for Jewish people” and lamented what the two have said in the past about Israel.

Jones on Tuesday expressed his hope that the situation can de-escalate on both sides of the aisle.

“[T]he relationship with Israel, I think is so, so important,” Jones said, saying how proud he was that Alabama in 1943 was the first state to call for the nation of Israel to be established.

“The commitment between the United States and Israel is as strong as it’s ever been,” Alabama’s junior senator advised. “And that is important. Israel has been such a strategic partner for the United States. And it has been good for us and it’s been good for Israel.”

“There’s been probably no better ally in the world in the last 40, 50 years than Israel. And we need to keep it that way,” he emphasized. “I want to make sure that we talk about that relationship.”

The senator outlined that there are strategic benefits for the U.S. in this relationship, spanning economic, military and humanitarian categories.

Jones also said the timing of the Birmingham event was “fortuitous” given the national controversy currently unfolding.

He called what was happening “a strain … with our relationship with Israel.”

“And I am concerned,” Jones stressed. “I will be very candid about this. I’m concerned that the relationship with Israel is beginning to see some cracks for political reasons. And that should not be the case. We need to do everything that we can in our respective countries to speak out against that. Because what I see and what I’m fearful of is that the relationship with Israel is now being used as a political weapon to try to divide people and try to drive political wedges for political gain. And it’s happening here, it’s happening in Israel. And we can’t, we can’t allow that to happen. Our alliance is too important to allow that to happen.”

He added that he was happy to witness firsthand Alabama and Israeli business leaders coming together to partner.

“[W]hat you’re doing, what you’re doing here is to demonstrate to so many people, whether they’re senators, whether they’re members of Congress, whether they’re members of the Israeli government or the President of the United States, that the foundations of the United States/Israeli relationship is strong, it’s bipartisan and it’s going to remain strong,” he told the crowd at Alabama Power Company’s headquarters building.

‘Not a whole lot of profiles in courage to stand up to your own party’

Lenny Roth, who co-chairs a PAC that supports positive relations between Israel and the U.S., then asked Jones if he is feeling pressure from his fellow Democrats, especially ones currently running for president in the 2020 cycle, to adopt an anti-Israel position.

“I think I’m the only one in the [Democratic] Caucus not running for president,” Jones joked.

Roth also asked whether supporting the country or not would become a litmus test for candidates, something he said would be unfortunate if it was to happen.

“I agree with you,” Jones responded. “There is a litmus test on the left, there is a litmus test on the right. And that’s unfortunate, and it goes way beyond just the Israeli thing right now.”

“I don’t feel any pressure in my caucus,” he added, getting back to the first question. “Where the pressure — it’s not pressure. Where the conflict comes is when you have certain members of the Democratic Caucus who say things that I don’t agree with and that so many of our caucus does not agree with and speaks out against — but yet when they get attacked on a personal level, when they get attacked as members of Congress, not because of just their beliefs but [they’re] because members of Congress and they get denied the right to go to visit [Israel] with other members of Congress, they’re — you have to defend those people as members of Congress. And therein lies the challenge, because people — there are those on the other side of the political aisle that want to kind of pull those together. And that’s going to be the challenge, I think, for people like me who absolutely have condemned comments that I found to be anti-Semitic by members of my party. Just like there are members in the Republican Party who have made comments that I believe are absolutely, unequivocally racist comments.”

He continued, “And people in the Republican Party need to condemn those remarks just as much. We don’t do enough of that. There’s not a whole lot of profiles in courage to stand up to your own party these days. I think you’re going to start seeing that more. I don’t feel any pressure, and I’m not going to feel any pressure. They know better than that. But I think the overwhelming numbers of people of goodwill of both Republican and Democratic Parties hopefully are not going to let this happen. They’re going to let this die down, and they’re not going to let this happen.”

Jones said the American-Israeli relationship will “take nurturing” moving forward to ensure longterm strength. He explained that “challenging members” of his own party “is the best” he can do right now to safeguard the relationship between the two nations.

From there, Jones was directly asked minutes later in a media gaggle about Trump’s statement made hours earlier, when the president said, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

“I think it’s absurd,” Jones said of Trump’s statement. “It’s imbecilic almost, I mean —  that’s exactly what I was talking about.”

He said whether it is the president or anyone else, any action “trying to drive a wedge” regarding the United States’ relationship with Israel is “shameful.”

Jones said Trump made the statement because the majority of Jewish voters voted Democratic in the last presidential cycle, according to Pew Research, and that the president is trying to “peel away” these voters.

“Look — if the president can’t win on his own policies and his own economic policies — the economy’s good even though we’re teetering right now — if he can’t win on his own policies, he apparently feels like he has to drive a wedge and use just language like that that is just absurd. And it is really unfortunate. It is unnecessary. And it really puts the United States at a real disadvantage on the world stage. And that’s what I think he doesn’t fully understand.”

The junior senator from nearby Mountain Brook was then asked about Omar and Tlaib, by name, being barred from entry into Israel on the congressional trip.

“Well, I don’t think it was appropriate. They [are] members of Congress. They [are] representatives of the United States who were going over there as part of a larger delegation. They should have been allowed to go just like the other members of the delegation,” Jones said, ignoring that the other members were not admittedly planning on breaking Israeli law. “Having said that, I don’t agree with a lot of their views about Israel. But they’re entitled to those views when we’re a country of diverse opinions and diverse political opinions.”

Still not invoking their names, he said Omar’s and Tlaib’s views about Israel “are not consistent with the historical relationship” between the two nations.

“What I will caution them to do is to not use such incendiary language, that they’ve often done, that confuses the relationship with Israel as being anti-Semitic,” Jones added. “And that has happened, and it’s unfortunate and should not happen.”

He stressed his belief that Israel and the United States “will get past this.”

Before leaving the venue, Jones seemed to stray from his anti-wedge stance, coming back to the “Russian collusion” narrative that Democrats have tried to use as a political weapon in referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “Moscow Mitch.”

Jones has been consistent in stating his desire for the Democrats to retake the U.S. Senate, which would presumably make Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the majority leader.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Van Smith scores impressive victory in Alabama’s HD 42 primary, advances to November general

Autauga County Commissioner Van Smith is the presumed winner of the Republican special primary election in House District 42.

The primary to fill the vacancy left by the the death of State Rep. Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) occurred on Tuesday in parts of Autauga and Chilton Counties.

According to the Alabama Republican Party, unofficial results of the primary were as follows:

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Van Smith – 2,237 (56.85%)
Jimmie Hardee – 686 (17.43%)
Allen Caton – 622 (15.81%)
Shannon Welch – 390 (9.91%)

While provisional ballots will be counted on August 27 and the certification of votes will occur on August 28, a statement from the ALGOP stated that Smith is seemingly the Republican nominee for HD 42, impressively avoiding a runoff in a very competitive race.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said, “I offer my congratulations to Van Smith on his apparent victory in the Republican Special Primary Election for Alabama State House District 42.”

“While this district is considered a solid Republican area, we will not take anything for granted and plan to work hard to ensure we hold this seat,” she concluded.

Smith was endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Forestry Association in the primary.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Birmingham’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is ready for its premiere

The new, permanent home of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival will open its doors this weekend, just in time for this year’s event.

Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival, said the 11,500 square-foot facility is not complete, but is far enough along to be used as a festival venue this weekend.

“After the festival we will go dark for a week,” Cook said. “Then we will have a soft opening Labor Day weekend before our grand opening September 13-15. We’re very excited.”

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Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema a dream come true from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The cinema, located in the basement of the Pizitz building on 2nd Avenue North, features two 89-seat theaters and an education room for special events. Outside of the festival week, it will function very much like a typical movie theater, operating seven days a week on a year-round basis, screening the latest independent feature films on one of two screens.

“We’re excited to have something slightly larger than a jewel-box movie theater, but not a huge multiplex-type facility where we can carefully curate the programming for our community,” Cook said. “When I took the job in 2009 I did not imagine this would come to fruition. I really think a lot of redevelopment in the north side of downtown Birmingham has happened around our annual festival and it continued happening to the point that we felt like the timing was right to pursue this project and fill that cultural void.”

Cook said the $4.9 million facility would not have happened without the generous support of a variety of contributors.

“We have been so fortunate to receive generous support from our corporate community, including Alabama Power (Foundation)Regions BankBlue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as well as our foundation community,” Cook said. “We’ve seen support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation, The Stephens Foundation, The Daniel Foundation, but we’ve also seen a lot of individuals who are not people who could start a foundation but they can send in a check for $250 or $25. That’s been really rewarding.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema, visit MakeMovieMagic.com. To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, visit SidewalkFest.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

SchoolFest sets the stage for Alabama children

The following is the latest installment of the Alabama Power Foundation’s annual report, highlighting the people and groups spreading good across Alabama with the foundation’s support.

 

Plato said art imitates life. Oscar Wilde said it was the other way around. It’s an argument that continues. However, one art form brings us face to face with the connection between art and life, perhaps better than any other: theater. It’s here people act out stories, hoping their audience forgets for a moment that it’s all make-believe. Were it not for the SchoolFest program of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), many Alabama children might never be exposed to the magic of theater.

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Every year, 40,000 students attend SchoolFest in Montgomery. From the professional actors to the costume and set design, the productions are the same as those presented to other ASF audiences. Thanks to grants from the Alabama Power Foundation and others, ticket prices are discounted and many schools attend for free, exposing students from all walks of life to art.

For some, it’s an experience they’ll never forget. For others, like Emily Prim, it’s life-changing. Prim is assistant wardrobe supervisor at ASF. She remembers distinctly when the “theater bug” bit her. “I was in seventh grade at St. James School in Montgomery. We had a field trip to SchoolFest, where we saw ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ I remember it so well, because there was a Ferris wheel on stage that was the peach, and I thought that was so cool. I was sorta thinking about theater, because of shows we had done in school and stuff, but when I came to see ‘James’ here, it made me start thinking that this is something I could do after I graduate,” Prim said.

Prim’s experience is what ASF is all about. Executive Director Todd Schmidt put it this way: “It’s really a bedrock of our mission at ASF, which is to create communities through transformative theatrical experiences. It’s a lot of kids’ first introduction to theater. It’s important to do that, especially in this time of continued cuts in arts funding.”

Shakespeare Festival’s SchoolFest puts the arts at center stage for Alabama students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Just in the past year, students have seen productions of “The Sound of Music,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.” The latter featured 24 students from Montgomery Public Schools in the cast. Schmidt chooses shows that are appropriate for audiences of all ages. SchoolFest builds many of these productions around school curricula.

“We put our programming out to schools, and then they select what they think is relevant to what they’re doing and what they want their kids to be exposed to,” Schmidt said.

What started decades ago as productions appropriate for students has continued to expand. In addition to SchoolFest, ASF offers educational programs. There are theater classes for adults and children, and summer theater camps for students. ASF has hosted a series of conversations that are tied – at least in part – to the shows. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell spoke alongside a cast member from “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.”

“These are not about our productions, but they focus on themes of the productions,” Schmidt said. “There’s one coming up that talks about women dealing with glass ceilings, working in fields normally dominated by men, which ties somewhat into the production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and a new production, ‘Into the Breeches.’”

Lonny Harrison, director of theater at St. James School in Montgomery, has been bringing students to see productions at ASF for 21 years. “We have some students who, up to the point they’ve hit SchoolFest, have never seen a live production outside of a school play. This definitely helps get them more into the arts.

It seems like kids respond differently to every show, but whether it’s something that’s the most amazing thing to them, or something that makes them think more critically, it at least makes them think about it. When we left ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the other day, kids were saying, ‘Let’s do some Shakespeare!’ I had to tell them, ‘Small steps.’”

Harrison has a long history with SchoolFest. He saw stage productions at ASF when he was in school. His experience echoes that of many Alabamians. Were you to poll the state, you’d likely be amazed at the number of people of all ages who’ve shared the marvel of live performance in a theater at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

In Alabama, it’s a generational thing. When it comes to the art imitating life vs. life imitating art question, perhaps Shakespeare got it right when, in the second act of “As You Like It,” the character Jaques said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

The parts being played by the men and women of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are a rich and vital service to the people of our state. These are the people who transform our children, who show them a new and lively way to understand stories, and life – its comedies and tragedies. These are the “players” who expand the minds of our young people, and show them a world that lives within their own ability to imagine.

For more information on the Alabama Power Foundation and its annual report, visit here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)