National Week of Conversation, April 20-28, 2018
Thousands of conversations coast to coast will prioritize listening first to understand the other in effort to revitalize America
At a moment in history in which we’re increasingly isolating ourselves from our fellow Americans, especially those with whom we disagree, the first National Week of Conversation, April 20-28, is an opportunity to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time.
More than 50 organizations—libraries, schools, activist groups, nonprofits, and churches—have already signed up as National Week of Conversation partners. They will be hosting conversations coast to coast, online and offline, and providing conversation guides so anyone can easily participate. Events are already scheduled in Charlottesville, Dallas, Santa Monica, Boston, Kansas City, New York City, Columbus, Washington DC, Boise, Atlanta, Lansing, and Tallahassee as more are added daily.
At NationalWeekOfConversation.org, participants start by taking the pledge to #ListenFirst to understand and consider another's views before sharing their own and to prioritize respect and understanding in conversation. From there, people may find an event near them, join others over a meal or coffee, have an online video conversation, or host their own conversations with friends and family. The website also provides special programs for libraries, schools, and faith communities.
“Increasingly in America today, I don’t just disagree with you; I distrust, dislike, even despise you because we see the world differently. 75% of Americans say this problem has reached a crisis level, as historians say our country hasn’t been this divided since the 1850s. A healthy, vibrant society cannot survive amidst such attacks on the humanity of our fellow Americans,” said Pearce Godwin, Co-Director of National Week of Conversation and Founder of Listen First Project (ListenFirstProject.org).
Debilyn Molineaux, Co-Director of National Week of Conversation and Bridge Alliance (BridgeAlliance.us), agrees. “Our country is at risk. And power brokers are exploiting our divisions to serve their own ends. Individuals—citizens themselves—are in the unique position of saying ‘NO MORE’ to the demonization of our fellow Americans or any human being.”
Godwin points to conversations as a solution. “In today's hyper-polarized and tribal society, we can turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division by starting new conversations that bridge divides—move from 'us vs. them' to 'me and you.' Each person who listens first to understand the other tips the scales toward a stronger future for our nation. In conversations—and the relationships they build—is hope for mending the frayed fabric of America.”
“There is a real thirst for conversation across divides—that’s because conversation works,” said John Gable, Co-Director of National Week of Conversation and Founder of AllSides (AllSides.com). “We matched political opposites at Mismatch.org for structured video conversations. After just one conversation, 92% of the participants reported better understanding the other person or the other side. This is the kind of experience that can transform our society.”
The coalition of organizations and people behind this event span the political spectrum, including the co-founder of MoveOn.org and a staffer for President Bush. The team that’s united around a National Week of Conversation both encourages and embodies the bridging of divides.
Molineaux reflects, “It is our capacity to trust one another that has made this country the longest surviving democratic republic. If we want to keep it, we must reach out to each other with dignity and prioritize the country before our political agenda. It’s our patriotic duty to do so. The National Week of Conversation will help us start the de-escalation of internal tensions, leading to a more perfect union.”
“With the National Week of Conversation, we’re providing opportunities for healthy conversations to take place where listening and learning take precedence over arguing and grandstanding,” said Sandy Heierbacher, Founding Director of National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (ncdd.org). “We and our Partners are creating spaces where everyone who shows up can tell their story and share their perspective on issues we usually debate or avoid entirely. This kind of dialogue builds trust and enables people to be open to listening to perspectives that are very different from their own.”
What is National Week of Conversation?
A nationwide series of events and individual conversations starting Friday, April 20 and ending Saturday, April 28, 2018 in which people all over America participate in conversations that prioritize listening first to understand the other across political, socio-economic and cultural divides. Individuals will participate at public events or in private groups at libraries, community centers, schools, clubs, online video conferences, restaurants and homes. This movement of bridge-building conversations will be promoted on social media using #ListenFirst. Additional information and opportunities to get involved as a host or participant are on the website: https://nationalweekofconversation.org/.
For media inquiries and interviews, contact Stephen Kent.
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