The president of the United States gives his State of the Union address next Tuesday.

Mid-valley residents can have their say the next evening at the People's State of the Union.

Community members can tell their stories or listen to others from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, at The Arts Center, says Jen Hernandez-Cornelius of the center.

"The People's State of the Union is the annual opportunity for just everyday folks from the community to get together into story circles and reflect upon their own personal experiences in the country," Hernandez-Cornelius said.

The event is a partnership among The Arts Center, Oregon State University's Diversity and Cultural Engagement program and the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. (The Department of Arts and Culture is a nonprofit organization, not a government agency.)

It event was started three years ago to supplement the president's speech by inviting people to come together in homes, schools, houses of worship, and community organizations.

In the story circles, participants have the option of having their stories written or typed by a scribe who will submit them to the Department of Arts and Culture, Hernandez-Cornelius said.

"Then all of the stories will be collected and reviewed by a group of poets and writers who will then turn around and create poetry or performance written word for the Poetic Address to the Nation," she said.

Hernandez-Cornelius worked with Charlene Martinez of Diversity and Cultural Engagement and Hunter Briggs, leadership liaison, integrated learning for social change at OSU, as well as some community members.

Hernandez-Cornelius said the goal is to create an opportunity where participants can build better understanding with individuals they may not otherwise meet.

"I'd like people to come away feeling like they heard something different or new that they didn't know about their neighbors and friends before or just maybe a different perspective on how we can have conversations, especially given the divisiveness of our current political atmosphere," she said.

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