This Saturday, thousands of Americans will take part in a first-ever event called America Talks – in an effort to heal social and political divisions that are tearing the U.S. apart. The mass video-chat event will kick off the fourth annual National Week of Conversation.
Cheryl Hughes is a co-organizer of the event and a nonprofit consultant from Greenville, Ohio, who is a self-described liberal. She said it’s important to reach across the aisle.
“I have actually lost friends because of positions that they hold,” said Hughes. “I just decided that I need to become a better listener.”
To be matched with a conversation partner for the event this weekend, sign up at AmericaTalks.us. The site also lists dozens of online forums on the schedule for next week.
The National Week of Conversation is designed to counteract the kind of vitriol often found on social media, and introduce people to those with differing views. Organizers are asking people to choose courage over contempt and reject the hostility that leads to political gridlock that hampers efforts to tackle the big issues.
Ron McFarland from Denver, Colorado is a retired teacher who describes himself as a fiscal conservative and moderate Republican. He said he’s taken heat for his views.
“There’s so much hurt, so much polarization and divide in the country,” said McFarland. “But for me, it’s ‘Go, America!'”
The National Week of Conversation promotes what organizers call bridging norms. They advise everyone to listen with curiosity, speak from their own experience, and connect with respect.