Dialogue, Disaster, and the Politics of Commemoration

Practitioners of dialogue often find themselves called in to support communities in the midst of a crisis – a public meeting that ended in a shouting match, a hate crime, even a death. I’m not an expert in the field, certainly, but I do know that much. I also know there’s something unique in the scale of devastation when it comes to a disaster. We remember where we were when. We remember tiny moments that expanded our gaze to the sheer magnitude of loss, whether we were on the ground or mesmerized by what we saw on television.

Narratives and Numbers: Increasingly Complex Definitions of Race

“I don’t understand the question.” In her now infamous interview, Rachel Dolezal is unable to answer a question about her racial identity. She stutters, and quickly walks away. There’s little doubt at this point that hers was an act of willful deceit. The swirl of media attention about her lies, her family history, or her mental health, however, sublimated an important conversation about how we define race in this country – for ourselves and for other people.

Teens Talk Mental Health

I am a transition coordinator at Gloucester High School and a Public Conversations training alumni. In May, I facilitated a group of students coming together to discuss the stigmas around conversations about mental health as part of the nation-wide “Text, Talk, Act” campaign, of which Public Conversations Project was a partner. The conversation was deeply personal, but also indicative of the more broadly felt silence we as a society hold around this topic. Here are some of the questions and ideas we explored together.

Conversations that Open Doors: Reflecting on This American Life

Through dialogue, Public Conversations Project fosters greater understanding between opposing sides of divisive issues, shifting attitudes and building relationships. This Sunday’s “This American Life” focused on a question that resonates deeply across the schisms of our polarized society: what’s the real likelihood that, on the issues you care most deeply about – be it abortion or same-sex marriage – you’re open to shifting your attitude, or even changing your mind?

After Ferguson: Cops, Community, and Needed Conversation

A Better Question: Vaccination

Since 1989, Essential Partners has been helping people navigate deep differences in identity. It is understandable when people reach out to ask us to comment on a current crisis in our world. How can communities like Ferguson, Missouri resolve the tension tearing them apart? What can dialogue do for the people of Paris after the latest shootings? How do we resolve our differences about same-sex marriage?

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