Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Interview by: Evan Holiday
Carol Lasser is a Professor of History at Oberlin College and has lived and worked in Oberlin for 36 years. She has a long history with the Ben Franklin and the owner, Krista Long, and serves as a member of the board of the Bill Long Foundation.
Q: What are some words or images thatyou would use to describe Oberlin?
A: Quirky, intellectual, musical. Civic minded, progressive. Some images: the Ben Franklin, Tappan Square. I think of the public library, and I think of that funky 1930s post office.
Q: The next question gets more into sustainability. The way the environmental studies department defines sustainability is with 3 Es: environment, economy, and equity. What is sustainability to you? How would you define it?
A: I dont think I have a really good definition. Its investing in the future.
Q: Are there any things that you do in your life that fits your definition?
A: I recycle. Ive invested a lot of emotional energy in my three grown children. I think thats actually really important. We talked a lot about values. We talked a lot about social justice.
Q: Can you tell me about anything specific that the Ben Franklin does?
A: They are just a good presence. They are good community citizens. [Krista] really cares about the community. She does a lot of outreach herself, but shes there as a kind of anchor. She hires people who other people wouldnt hire; her father was one of the first people to hire people of color to be salespeople in downtown Oberlin. These are good progressive values.
I have really always appreciated the Ben Franklin as an alternative to going out of town to malls.
Q: Tell me about your connection to the Ben Franklin.
A: Well the Ben Franklin has been here for forever and ever. Ive watched a lot of changes to downtown Oberlin, and Ive watched the Ben Franklin go through a couple of iterations, and I have really always appreciated the Ben Franklin as an alternative to going out of town to malls. Its great to be able to walk to town and buy things that you could buy elsewhere, but instead you can shop locally. Back in the bad old days when I first moved here, we had a bookstore that really was a co-op. The manager of that for many years was Kristas father, who was the famous Bill Long. Bill Long ran a great co-op book store, and I bought most of my books there. Krista, in a way, carries on a great deal of that tradition. She runs a community minded enterprise. Im also a member of the board of the Bill Long Foundation. It is a local community foundation. We call it good money for good people, and it gives grants for local stuff that runs everything from school trips to grants for the local senior citizens center, or to various different community projects. Its the only foundation that you will ever find any place in the world that has community participation. Im not kidding, it is one of the coolest things.
Q: Is there anything that you would want to tell fellow community members that hasnt come up?
A: I think were all aware that shopping locally is really really important. I think were all aware that local businesses know the people in the community, and help the people in the community. I know a dollar spent in the community will stay in the community. I think its important to support community businesses, but only if the businesses are also supporting the community.
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