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See yourself through our eyes.

IT SEEMS INCOMPREHENSIBLE that one should have to sell the idea of coming to Calgary.

The city's attractions all seem so obvious to the Calgary resident who, while contemplating the joys of this city, sits with her feet up on the credenza, looking out her office window past the sunshine-reflecting downtown towers to the purple and snow-tipped Rocky Mountains in the background.

Surely, she says to herself (editorial-page editors being the sort who commonly talk to themselves), the physical attractions of Calgary are obvious. Here we are, snug by the foot of the mountains, only one hour from Banff National Park and its hiking trails and meadows and wildlife; only an hour from Kananaskis Country and the world's most spectacular public golf course and the site of the 1988 Olympics downhill skiing events -- all those mountains and all that glorious outdoors.

But I lose myself here. Banff and Lake Louise, Kananaskis and the foothills, are for long afternoons before or after the 1997 NCEW meeting. They're the value added to a trip to Calgary, the extras that make a worthwhile trip spectacular and keep Kodak in business.

But this proposal is about holding the NCEW convention in the city of Calgary, before you're allowed to dash off to find your inner self in the mountains. Wait a minute while I shift my focus from the mountains in the distance to the river at my feet.

This is a great city. Just the right size -- about 700,000 people. There are lots of things to do and places to go -- especially from one of our spacious downtown hotels. Ideally, NCEW will be meeting in the historic Palliser Hotel, one of the first and the most elegant hotels in the city. It's right in the heart of downtown, although no place in Calgary is far from the country.

By 1997, 10 years will have passed since the Vancouver meeting and 20 years since NCEW last met in Calgary. I can guarantee that the city has lost none of its considerable charm in the ensuing years. But that wouldn't be sufficient reason to award the convention to Calgary -- although if you are curious about what happens when you take Texas bravado and Western tradition and ship them both a couple of thousand miles north, then by all means come to Calgary, where the real rodeo is still held every July.

The best reason to award the 1997 NCEW convention to Calgary is the opportunity our dual-country association gives us to take a close look at ourselves from a unique vantage point. Nothing focuses the fact of being "American" more sharply than to look at yourself through someone else's eyes. Canada gives the United States that unique opportunity -- a foreign country on your doorstep with a common, undefended border, an (almost) shared language and many of the same cultural references. But the differences are varied and many. As Robert MacNeil, executive producer and co-anchor of the PBS MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, said: "The Canadian worships institutions, not people, and he hates the cult of personality."

We also believe that the public good occasionally outweighs the private right and that having a monarch as the head of state stops the head of government from getting a swelled notion of self-importance.

The organizing committee can promise a program of speakers and debates that will stimulate and freshen the mind -- probably clean the plaque from your teeth -- and one that will send you home able to tell the folks that prairie oysters aren't fish; a Calgary red-eye isn't a midnight flight to New York; and a chinook arch isn't found on any building.

We can promise a solid look at the international oil business and why we are called blue-eyed sheiks; an examination of the tripartite trade relationship among Mexico, Canada, and the United States and the state of the North American Free Trade Agreement; why it is that the Canadian health system spends less and treats more people more fairly; and a free-wheeling debate on multi-culturalism versus the melting pot.

Mostly, the organizing committee can promise a chance for NCEW members across the United States to take a good look at themselves and their country from a unique vantage point -- north of the 49th and west of the Mississippi.

So, ya'll come on up, eh?

NCEW member Catherine Ford is associate editor of the Calgary Herald.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Conference of Editorial Writers
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Convention '93; National Conference of Editorial Writers convention in Calgary, Alberta
Author:Ford, Catherine
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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