Civil Discourse

We spent a week in residence with the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse at Grand Valley State University and their community partner Seeds of Promise in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It was election week and a good time to ask the question, “What is one hope you have for our country during these divided times?”

If I were to have answered the question, it would have been simple. More of this.

It was a week of building connections between the University and the community. A week of listening. A week of celebrating success and recognizing challenges. Working with journalism students as they hone their craft and understand their role in an evolving democracy. And people from diverse backgrounds gathering for conversation around how we build a world that works better for everyone.

There were long lines of students waiting to vote. There were people asking thoughtful questions. There were citizens participating in the process and feeling heard.

For the most part, our country made it through this election cycle as planned. Things worked. People participated. Votes got tallied. People accepted the results. There were some bumps along the way, but those can be addressed. Not everyone I voted for won, but that’s how the game works.

What gives me growing hope is that the effort I saw in Michigan is an emerging model. There are scores of organizations across the country working to strengthen our social fabric. There is an acknowledgement that our civic life needs our attention. That it is worth our effort to strengthen the mechanisms and build the networks and tend to the work of sustaining our democracy. As my friend Joe Davis says, “We do best what we do often.” And I see people from all backgrounds stepping up to do this work more often.

There is work to do. This country is imperfect and this process is messy. But at the end of the day, the choice is ours and this place will become what we make of it. What’s it going to be?

What’s your hope for this place?

One thought on “Civil Discourse

  1. I hope that orange man (whose name I never say) will not cause more violence in the US. Enough violence. Still grieving deaths of young queer people in Colorado Springs. It is a scary time .

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