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Retired trial lawyer moderates discussion groups on current events

Mike Karp uses his Bronx roots and legal knowledge to facilitate conversations on world news and political issues.


Michael Karp brings out an article he found on a topic they were discussing in Thinking Out Loud.
Michael Karp brings out an article he found on a topic they were discussing in Thinking Out Loud.
Photo by Petra Rivera
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Retired trial lawyer Michael Karp spends his week reading and watching the news. Whether it's politics, international issues or local news, you can bet that Karp knows the low-down on the matter. 

Being from the Bronx, he isn’t afraid of a little confrontation, but his background also allows him to be open to differing opinions.

That's why he's the moderator for The Paradise Center’s Thinking Out Loud. The discussion group allows Longboaters a safe space to talk about current events and political issues going on around the world.

Michael Karp
Photo by Petra Rivera

Karp said being a discussion group moderator fell into his lap. He was meeting weekly with a group of men at the Senior Friendship Center and encouraged them to use the time to talk about world issues. Each time the group met, people would bring something new to talk about. Karp took it upon himself to keep the conversation going.

Word got out about the discussion group and then he was approached to start another one. This group focused on the topic of aging and gave people a chance to speak about their experiences and coping mechanisms related to the subject. 

Now Karp is the moderator for four discussion groups a week around the Sarasota area. He's started to see this as his purpose in life. 

He said he doesn’t want to waste his retirement doing nothing in his house. Leading these groups keeps his mind fresh, allows him to give back and learn from the community.

Former executive director of The Paradise Center Suzy Brenner also heard about Karp’s group and thought it would be a unique addition to Longboat. He has been hosting Thinking Out Loud on Mondays weekly for three years now. 

David Langhaug and Maria Ray discuss a national matter in Thinking Out Loud.
Photo by Petra Rivera

“I usually start with ‘What do you guys want to talk about?’” said Karp. “I always want them to know that I am not a teacher. I am just there to move things along and keep everything fair.”   

At the beginning of each week, Karp will send out an agenda with topics that he has noted from different news sources. The subject of this email is usually something along the lines of, “Sorry, not much happened this week. You think?” He emphasizes to each group that these are suggestions and always encourages the participants to start the conversation.

The groups will span from five to 40 people depending on the time of year. Based on this, Karp will adjust his approach in moderating making sure that everyone can a word in. 

Michael Karp gathers his research before starting Thinking Out Loud at the Paradise Center.
Photo by Petra Rivera

If no one suggests anything for the discussion, Karp will ask about a topic that has interested him recently. He will gently urge those who aren’t saying much and give everyone a chance to speak if someone is taking over the conversation. 

Karp comes to each meeting with articles he has thoroughly read and questions prepared. Based on the atmosphere, he uses his intuition to move the conversation along. He usually bounces ideas off the person who is speaking. 

Not an objective moderator, Karp will give his opinion based on his experience being a trial lawyer and his research. He does welcome people who have opposing opinions for a well-rounded discussion.

“These discussions bring people together and give them an excuse to socialize, to connect with one another,” said Karp. “By nature, I believe that human beings need to be able to connect with other humans. So discussing these different happenings keeps us learning and connecting.”

 

author

Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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