(soft music) - Tired of the toxic level of polarization in the United States?
Interested in talking with people whose perspective differs from your own in ways that stay constructive.
We invite you to join us for a year focused on creating a culture of conversation rather than division.
The Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and WGVU Public Media are pleased to partner for talking together, strengthening our communities through conversation, a dialogue initiative aimed at interrupting polarization and investing in the principles of civil discourse and respectful conversation.
The aim is to assist community members engaging in conversation with one another across differences in perspective, identity, and life experiences.
The Talking Together initiative kicked off in 2022.
It began with strategies for how to have conversations about important issues with people who believe, think and vote differently than you.
We've interviewed civil rights activist, Valarie Kaur, author of "See no Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love," and most recently focused on the importance of working together with a focus on social justice.
Here to talk about this Grand Valley State University initiative in its entirety are Lisa Perhamus, director of the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, Allie Goeddeke, office assistant with Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, Kyle Kooyers, associate Director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, and Jim Rademaker, my boss, general manager, WGVU Public Media.
Thank you all for being here.
It's kind of nice to wrap this up and review what we've been through because I can honestly say I've admitted this while moderating an event.
I was a bit skeptical in the beginning.
I think when you're a journalist, that's what you do.
You're a skeptic.
And I think being immersed in this bedlam, I would say, it's not necessarily civil, what we've all been through in the past few years.
But for me personally, I think taking a moment to not only reflect, but to see the value in this, which I have seen the value in this.
I have to say, for me, it has really shown a light on the problems and has offered ways to better understand people at a human level.
And I think once you're there, then you can begin to have those discussions and to be honest and frank with each other.
So there, I'm done.
There's my wrap on the whole thing, but I do, I think it's been very beneficial.
I've truly enjoyed the journey, but now I think we'll take a deeper dive with all of you and the organizations who have been behind this and who have really dissected this and maybe to bring it home for the public, for our viewers here, and also everybody who has attended.
And maybe we think about what's next.
So I'm calling this episode, tell me more.
Lisa, this really, I think has been your baby from the beginning.
So for anybody who's just now jumping in or maybe has been in and out of this process, what has been that north star?
And then I think, we'll get into more of this, taking a closer look as a whole.
So we really set out to foster a culture of conversation with the goal of interrupting toxic polarization.
We look all around at our politicians, at our family circles, our friendship circles.
We see it on social media, we see it everywhere unfortunately, the divisiveness, the polarization, and I hear it from students, I hear it from community members, I hear it from staff and faculty.
The people are just hungry for being able to sit down, have a good old fashioned conversation, and stay engaged in the conversation even when it gets contentious.
How do we do that?
How do we stop demonizing each other and talk about ideas and be able to disagree with our ideas and get excited about that disagreement sometimes because through our disagreements, we have new ideas and really foster that climate and that culture of conversation with one another once again.
So it's an old fashioned idea, but it's much needed.
And we really found that people took to it and were hungry for it this year.
- An old-fashioned idea.
I remember growing up, my parents would always say, things you don't talk about, religion, politics, and your money.
So it's almost as though we need to go back to maybe those old traditions and those basics.
But here we are today with social media and everything else, everybody has a voice.
So I think maybe those old ideas have gone to the wayside.
So how do we successfully today interrupt this toxic polarization?
- Well, I mean, building off of what you just shared, right, religion, politics, money, I couldn't imagine three larger things that impact a person's daily lived reality, right?
Like, and so part of the issue is that we've become enculturated to not talk about the things that matter.
And so even beginning a conversation seems really foreign.
I think one of the strengths of what we've put together over the course of this year is even dismantling the mythologies around polarization.
And don't get me wrong, we are a polarized society, but the extent to which is a little bit misleading, right?
We do have extremes on the left and the right, but by and large, the data shows, and largely this was given to us by One America movement that we fall somewhere closer to the center.
And so it's that question of not if this or this, but rather to what extent on some of these issues.
So again, welcoming people into a bold space where they can share human stories, hear one another's experiences, and talk about a specific topic or set of topics, and the way those intersect with their daily lived reality create a space where A, we enter into topics that were historically no fly zones, but also begin to see that maybe we're not that far off, or despite the fact that we vote differently, our experience of say, caring for an aging parent is very similar, stressful, right?
Places demands upon us financially that are shared.
So there are places for cross-cutting issues and conversations.
- There is that, and I think this came up with One America, and I can't remember the term exactly, boy, I wish I could, but the whole idea that there are certain values, right, that are just like my religion, right, that is something that- - Sacred values, I think.
- Sacred values, thank you.
Sacred values, and yet there are some of these other more maybe politically motivated or ideologies that have risen to those sacred values that are kind of muddying the water.
- That's creating a bigger issue.
And maybe we need to separate those and put them in their rightful place.
- Well, I think it's also easy to gravitate towards people who think and have a lot of the same values that you do.
So I think one of the strengths of the series was that we were able to bring people of very diverse perspectives into the same room to have these conversations.
So while you might be hungry for these conversations and interested in having them, not only did we give you the tools to be able to start these conversations, but also put you in the same room with people in a relatively comfortable space where you could talk to someone who might have a very different perspective from yours, who might not be traveling in your normal circles that you gravitate towards.
- Well, I think we were able to break down some of that otherness when you're in the same room with somebody.
Trust is such an issue.
And when you talk about contentious issues or areas that you may disagree, if there isn't a level of trust, untrustworthiness has kind of become a default for a lot of people, but bringing people into the same space, I think lowers that bar because there's all of a sudden a human connection.
You can see the person, a lot of the things we talked about, we were allowing people to show their humanness to each other.
And then you see, oh, wait, we do have these, there is intersectionality, there is commonness amongst us, even though we may disagree here, it lowers I think the temperature and allows things to potentially move forward.
- But a lot of people love to jump in with that, kind of that I gotcha, right off the bat, right?
And a lot of that times, that's politics.
So it's setting this new tone for having conversation, which at its core is so human, right?
I mean, the whole idea is to get to know someone.
But as you've mentioned, times it's just changed the way that we communicate with each other because we're not all sitting face to face anymore.
How much of that plays into it too, this idea that we're communicating from such great distances and you really don't get to know somebody.
- I think to your point, you know, fighting with facts, getting to the shared human connection piece, fighting with facts does not work, right?
Part of that ideologies or perspectives rising to the level of sacred values.
I mean, again, the neuroscience shows us that those values are actually held in a different part of the brain than what am I getting for lunch today?
And could I be sway swayed on where we're going after this, right?
So offering somebody data or information hoping that that will expand a viewpoint or change a mind, it's not gonna work.
Like you have to lower what are very innate walls that go up to defend those sacred values.
And again, that all occurs through creating human affinity connection.
I feel comfortable with you as a person, therefore I'm willing to then listen to what data story experiences you have to share with me.
But that relationship, that trust piece has to come first.
- Right, and I think part of how that happens is through storytelling, right, and sharing our stories.
And I think that's one of the things that we were able to do through this series, through many of the events, is that we had storytelling opportunities for participants.
And that we really got to that, as you were saying, Jim, that human connection.
And as you were saying Kyle, and you were saying as well, Allie, that human connection level that, you know, it's hard to hate someone whose story you know.
And that really breaks down the barriers.
And so while you may not trust someone whose story you're just hearing for the first time, because you haven't had enough experience with that person to trust them right off the bat, you are starting to say, well, I am hearing their experience for the first time, and I think maybe I can trust this person.
I hear trust in their tone of voice.
I can relate to their experience.
And that builds trust collectively at a societal level.
That individual relationship builds collectively.
And so it really matters.
- Lisa, you've spent so much time on this, and I think you should be congratulated for all your hard work.
- Thank you.
- Some of those emails coming in all hours.
(all laugh) - I know where your mind was.
It was all here.
Has it realized, talking together as the initiative, has it realized your objectives?
As you look back, are there some limitations?
I mean, what as you're processing this now and you get to Monday morning, quarterback it.
Yeah, so I think, you know, some of the feedback that we got was it would be really nice to have more divergent views, even more so than we had in the room, you know, that it's really hard to get really divergent perspectives in the same room.
And while I think that's true, I think two things I learned through this series, one is through one of the events, somebody said, you know, it's really important to preach to the choir sometimes, that the choir needs that cheerleading, that inspiration as well.
And then I think the other thing is that we are, and I think you were speaking to this before, Kyle, we are more nuanced than we realize.
And so while it may seem we have a lot of similarities in the room, when you get to talking to somebody, you realize how complex, how multi-layered people are.
And there are so many points of connection and so many ways that we're different also, that the multiplicities are endless.
So I think it really breaks down that stereotype of like, oh, you're all Democrat.
Oh, you're all Republican.
Oh, you're progressive, you're conservative.
And so we need more divergent perspectives in the room.
Well, really, if you are a human being and you walk into the room with other human beings who walk into the room, then you have divergent perspectives 'cause you have a multiplicity of life experiences.
And I think this is what we need to get to.
- Well, I think, and you pointed out something really critical there that now we've kind of touched on twice, is that politics has risen 'cause we view people through almost that frame, that lens first in many occasions.
And if we can, a lot of what this did, what we weren't bringing people together based on a political ideology.
We were bringing people together for connection to have, I think of the stories, the key that you said there, stories that came out, how do we continue to foster that to allow this space for us to see each other for our individualness and our complex, all of our complexities and differences.
But it just, for me, that was really the win out of it was just seeing, you know, people in a room desiring to move forward as a person, as a community, as a nation.
And that's what each of these, in their own unique way did each of these sessions through the year.
- Did you feel like it meant, its objectives or are there limitations?
What did your organizations find going through the process?
Hauenstein with its common ground, right?
I mean, kind of there's a little bit of this intersection.
I think while we had a diverse group of individuals bringing all of these complex life experiences with them, one thing that I had in my mind throughout the series is that it was really limited to this West Michigan community here.
And I think that was within the scope of this project, we were really trying to bring people together in the same room.
But that was one really big shared commonality that everybody had.
So when we were struggling to bring, you know, making sure that we had really diverse perspectives in the room, I think that was one limitation.
And I think we did kind of break out of that a little bit with the National week of conversation being able, that was a virtual event.
So we were able to offer that on a wider scale and bring some more community into that.
But thinking about limitations- - Super good too, if you get a chance to watch that.
I really enjoyed those conversations.
Very revealing, right, especially when you looked at some of our local administrators and politicians who were under attack.
I thought their perspective was quite interesting and really fell right into this wheelhouse of this discussion.
So yeah, I highly recommend that.
- I would just add to that, you know, when we talk about things ascending to the level of sacred values, we begin to create what One America terms as stacked mega identities, packages, if you will, that we assign people into.
So if you are a Christian, you are therefore Republican, you hold these views on the first and second amendment, likely this view on immigration or right to life, whatever it might be.
And anybody who's any one of those tick marks on the grid sheet becomes all the other tick marks at the same time.
And what was interesting to me was having conversations with some of my peers or participants and just sort of naming the diverse political perspectives at their table and then hearing them respond, oh, I had no idea that they voted that way.
We seemed so aligned on this one issue that we were talking about at our table.
And that begins to undo the Jenga tower or the Rubik's cube that is, right, that stacked mega identity.
We see people as more complex and nuanced.
- Well, that's the idea of the minority driving the conversation, right.
If you look at the political spectrum, far left, far right, I got them right, perfect there.
I gotta make sure you align that.
But there is that middle right?
I don't think there's any religious purity.
I don't think there's any political purity.
There's always something in the middle, right?
And there's probably more in the middle than out on the fringes.
But the fringes drive it because that's where the, that's where the loudest live.
So it's how do we find that place for the middle to have these conversations to really drive the conversation and create the change.
- I think it's interesting.
I think who you see in the organizations we represent are part of what I would call the success of this with the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse.
You've got the Hauenstein Center, you've got the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, and you've got Public Media here.
And we all have, we've seen intersection nationalities in what we're doing and we've brought that to the audience and you look at who came in throughout the year from the very beginning to the very end.
And I really think that's something that we can continue to play to as we look to this in the future.
You know, Lisa and I have already talked, okay, how do we continue this?
And Megan at the Hauenstein Center says, yes, yes, we've got some momentum going.
How do we keep it going?
We can bring the larger community a little bit easier into this conversation as well and get the word out a little bit more.
So it's just been, I think from that perspective, we really have, we haven't arrived by any sense of the imagination, but I think we have some momentum now and we can't let this end.
- But that's the tricky part, I feel.
And maybe that's where my skepticism comes in.
And that is that if you're preaching to the choir, how do you get it out there, right?
I mean, what are our strategies for doing that?
I know it's that one person at a time approach, but during these times, that's pretty difficult.
Especially when we know what the media environment looks like right now.
How do you reach the masses when maybe the views or the strategies of other media outlets are completely different from ours?
That didn't come out exactly the way that I wanted it to.
But I think you understand what I'm trying to say.
You know, how do you work your way in to get that message through?
- So I think that in addition to being one conversation at a time, one relationship at a time, it's one town hall meeting at a time, it's one community organization meeting at a time, it's one community safety meeting at a time, it's one, you know, you get what I'm saying?
It's one community public space at a time.
You know, I think about, you know, people do all kinds of things.
This is my dream.
Well, I have lots of dreams, so this isn't my only dream, but talking together dream.
The national Week of conversation is a national week celebrated all across the United States where people who are really focused on fostering a culture of conversation and interrupting polarization and divisiveness, really focus on that for a week.
And media is on board and all kinds of organizations are on board and is getting more and more attention.
And cities and towns and villages celebrate this week.
And so I would really like to see Grand Rapids as a city celebrate the national week of conversation.
I think Grand Valley as a university could partner with the city of Grand Rapids for the National Week of conversation.
I can see if it's a city and a university priority, I can see it seeping into lots of little nooks and crevices.
It becomes part of how we talk with one another that we turn to having a conversation before we turn to our fists or argumenting, argumenting.
Yeah, I can't talk, having arguments.
I was gonna say debating or argument.
You know, so as long as it's part of the culture, I think we are making that progress.
- So opportunities in public schools, opportunities in places of worship 'cause I know that was One America's approach, so maybe we've answered our question.
There are these touchpoints for this to build.
- Well, and it's a moment, like I said, it's a momentum thing.
I think the analogy for what Lisa was saying is yeah, eat the elephant one bite at a time.
It's not gonna be all at once.
And a chorus can build and there's safety in, you know, if you're afraid to sing, it's a lot easier to join a chorus than to do a solo.
And so we can continue to provide the opportunities.
And I think the more we do this and the more we focus on things like the national week of conversation, it gives more and more opportunity for people to see a place for themselves.
Especially, I guarantee we touched some people that walked away from this thinking differently.
That's a victory in and of itself.
But they also touch other people and can start that conversation and it can become that domino effect when we continue to, we don't just say the way we refer to it here, we have projects and we have initiatives.
Projects have an end date.
This is an initiative.
This is something that doesn't have an end date.
This needs to be, you know, civic engagement is one of our four core tenants here of content.
And this is exactly in that.
If we don't have a strong civic engagement culture, that's, you know, Rome was powerful at one point in time.
It fell when it lost that.
- So no expiration date on this.
So, so far from what do we have six or more?
'Cause I know Einstein had some programs in there as well.
What lesson have you personally or professionally learned?
Like what's like this one wow moment?
- I think my favorite thing that I learned through the series and that I think our staff at our office saw is that we are better when we can collaborate with all of our friends on campus.
I think a lot of the success of this initiative was achieved because we were able to pull all of our strengths and resources together, leverage our different audiences, bring our different tools to the table.
So it was really cool to see this initiative be a success.
And I think a lot of that success was attributed to the fact that we were able to collaborate together.
And I don't know that any of us would've been able to be as successful as our individual units on our own.
So that was one thing for sure that jumped out to me.
- Yeah, I think a number of our participants in this have had different languages they've brought to this idea, I'll just use this.
But, you know, holding out a vision of hope and highest human potential.
So when I meet you, not only do I see you as a human being, I desire for you a full and happy and safe and known existence and life, right?
I want you to flourish in this community that we share together.
And as I enter that conversation space, that's my desire for you.
It's not the win for me in this argument, but it's together, can we move towards transformation?
And I acknowledge that I might have space to learn to grow, to be transformed even as I hope for that for you.
- God, it's replacing our culture, I think is too dominated by fear.
And it's replacing that fear that, wait, could I lose here with, with a hope for stepping forward, I think that's.
- Can be tough for you to answer this question.
- Yeah, so all of that, and I would say I'm sort of a realist and a pessimist.
So it's funny that I talked about dreaming earlier, but I'm gonna talk about dreaming again.
I learned also that it's okay and important to dream because this was a dream.
I remember talking about this in the beginning.
Can we do this?
And we did and we did it together and we were better together and yeah, and we're still talking together.
- When do you dream?
You never sleep.
I'm trying to figure this out.
- I think one thing that's important to note too is that throughout the entire series we were obviously hopeful that people were going to want to come to these events.
And there were times in full transparency where we were looking at the registration numbers going, oh no, are people not interested in this one.
Is this one going to be a flop?
And we showed up at every single event and were blown away by the number of people that came.
I mean, events that were looking like they were going to be attended, not as well as others, we ended up pulling in extra chairs because we had more people join us than we thought.
So I think throughout the entire series, we were every step of the way blown away by the number of people that wanted to be in that space and in that room.
- So is it maybe because we were a little bit conditioned that so much of the noise from the outside may be clouded.
You know, we allowed that to come into our thinking and thinking, there might not be enough of momentum here.
But to your point, early on, Kyle, the middle really is the biggest wedge of the pie or slice of the pie.
And we maybe didn't give ourselves enough credit there.
- Well, and I think invitation is everything.
Like in some of the spaces that we held over the course of this year to see even students say, I had no idea this was a reality for my neighbors, for my peers on campus, that these systems that these histories have perpetuated over decades, centuries, right.
Because the conversation was had with an invitation, again, with a desire to see learning and growth.
It wasn't finger ragging, it wasn't fist pounding.
And that asks a lot of the folks that we have invited into the space, again, like as we try to center silenced voices, marginalized voices, we as privileged individuals like this whole line of folks here, we have work to do in our own spaces.
So we take the learning from talking together and you know, I go back to my congregation, I go back to my dinner table with my extended family and I have the hard conversations there with them, right?
Because my identity's not threatened there.
I hold a privilege, my voice has a place at that table.
And I can leverage the learning that I have experienced in these spaces in my own spheres of influence.
And my hope is that everyone who has participated in our spaces is doing just that.
And I think that's how you ultimately grow the choir.
- And you have to stick with it because sometimes you forget.
- You fall back to bad habits and having conversations and then afterwards you're like, oh crap, did I really just say that?
That's not what I learned along the way.
So we have some questions from the audience.
Lisa, is there a trend theme or pattern that you discovered from people currently doing work around polarization and dialogue?
- It's your question so everybody gets to answer it.
- So a trend theme or a pattern is that, well, I don't wanna take, well, Kyle and I were talking about this question earlier and I don't want to take our conversation.
- The green room conversation that's here.
- It's fair game.
- So I think that the communities that are most impacted by the polarization and the divisiveness are most often not at the table in these conversations.
Communities of color, under-resourced communities are often, I attend meetings once a month of people doing dialogue work across the United States.
And I would say they're often not at the table.
It's often upper class white privileged identities.
And I know that everyone is doing the work.
So it's about who is getting the megaphone mostly, I think.
- And I think that's been a goal of ours throughout the course of this year, is to hand over the proverbial megaphone to the voices in the community that are doing that hard work.
So specifically elevating BIPOC leadership on the ground.
Not just bringing people together to talk, but as we saw in the last couple of events, actively working to build trust across communities, actively building upon that trust to make change happen and to organize and work across difference within our community.
- And a number, 'cause we've brought segments here and we've had a lot of that conversation.
It's been very enlightening and I would recommend anybody to go back, look through the series, watch the interviews, and you'll see exactly what you're talking about.
And it is so revealing.
I've had conversations, just side conversations that have opened my eyes to our community and to working with other groups that have a voice that needs to be expanded.
And I think that's a lot of what we're doing at here at WGVU and we love partnering with all of you because there are so many opportunities to get people's voices into the mainstream where they belong.
So we will continue to beat that drum, I know that through.
- Yeah, I mean Patrick is, I can't tell you how many times Patrick came in after a talking together session and like, oh my gosh, we need to talk to this person more.
- I turned it down here, but I'll let you.
I would arrive like, Hey, we've got opportunities here.
- But it's great, you know, and for me, I mean, being in this industry, you know, my role has changed.
And so I'm not out like I used to be as much as a young, you know, cub reporter and meeting everybody.
And so I'm getting older and what I'm finding is that there are younger voices that are the leaders of today and tomorrow, and they really can drive the conversation and create change.
And that's what's so great about being on a university campus also because you see these young people who are involved and who want to be the difference makers and they're figuring it out right now.
But when it begins to develop and spread, and I think that falls in line with another thing I learned from my parents.
My dad would always say that the pendulum swings.
I mean even now, this discord that we're seeing, it will shift again.
It will swing the other way.
And it begins with having these types of programs and to realize and to see what's happening in your community and that nobody wants to destroy their community or democracy, that it starts somewhere.
- But they see a solution they believe.
- I mean, I was a political theory major in college and it's interesting, my big concern is that I think our biggest opportunity is with the students on this campus because they, it's cliche, but they're our future and, but we have a bit more experience.
Things don't just turn on a dime.
And that we can continue to keep them engaged.
And I think that's an important part of what we do is that the progress happens through engagement, not a one time mountaintop experience with an event or something like that.
And so how do we continue to keep that, that, hey, this is, let's make, you know, incremental progress, as we've talked about what are our small wins today.
- I think that was one really cool strength of the program as well, mentioning the young leaders and being here on a university campus was to be able to get those young leaders here on campus at the university in the same room as community members.
That intergenerational dialogue is just phenomenal when you see it in the same room.
And it's not very often, you know, that a 19 year old college student is getting to sit down with a 72 year old community member they have a lot of different life experiences with.
So being able to get the students and to be able to show the students to the community and vice versa and build those connections, being a bridge between Grand Valley and the community was a really, really cool thing to see come to fruition through this series.
- And it's not just about learning, learning, understanding, that's part of it.
It's about transformation.
And I think, you know, hearing somebody make the comment after Valerie's lecture of, I feel like I can breathe for the first time period was powerful.
And that happened because we created a storytelling space.
Valerie created a storytelling space.
And I think when people, when students specifically feel like they have room at the table to talk about their perspectives, their realities, and it's true for all of us, they'll take advantage of that and they'll show up, right.
And I think those stories are what ultimately kind of guide the common thread through all of these programs that we've done.
Individual experiences, conversation's, not about issues, but how the topic we're talking about impacts my day-to-day life and the people I love and the community that I physically dwell in, that I live in, so that I can hear from somebody who has a vastly different racial ethnic background, religious background, socioeconomic background, whatever it might be, that the same systems that marginalize, that oppress, that harm them, I'm complicit in and to some degree benefit from daily, right.
That to quote King's language, what affects one directly affects me, or all indirectly.
We're connected in this, whether we realize it or not, regardless of what zip code you fall in.
But these issues do affect populations, individuals, communities more acutely than others.
But we're responsible to one another in that.
- So we've gone into the strengths and weaknesses portion of this conversation.
So we're seeing those strengths.
Were there some weaknesses or challenges that were revealed through this process that I don't know, we tighten up and as we move forward?
- I think a challenge is always going to be, especially when you have panels, and I think Kyle and Lisa handled a lot of the content and putting the speakers together for those, and I think they did a great job, but there's always a challenge making sure you have a wide range of viewpoints and folks represented.
So being really intentional about how you're putting those panels and those folks together, I think is always a challenge when you're working on programming like this.
- Because we did programming every month, we were always actively doing programming.
So it would be nice to have more space built in to sort of reflect like, oh, okay, so this is how we want to do it for the next time.
And to sort of have a more holistic scaffolding of a curriculum maybe for the year.
Maybe we had that, but I would like to do more of that, I think would be nice.
- And we just made the observation that a lot of the resources that we used, film clips, documentaries, et cetera, really did center the experiences and learning of relatively privileged identities.
And so, you know, if we continue into this work or, you know, we imagine what this look work will look like in our own spaces, again, being mindful of whose stories, whose voices we're centering.
And that does involve a degree of surrender to say, we have this platform and we want to offer this to you to say what you gotta say, to share your story and experience with us and to not put any limiters on that.
And that's part of the risk of putting these panels together.
We're working with entities that our institutes and centers don't collaborate with all that often.
And I think that that was a unnecessary growing pain for a lot of us.
- Finding and building those connections to new areas.
- But we all understand each other so much better now.
We know our comfort zones, we know what we're good at, we know our weaknesses, we know where we can help support each other.
So it's been a great journey.
So I'm going to wrap this up and we'll just go down the line here.
We'll start out with Jim, and that is how do we continue fostering these conversations?
- Well, first of all, I think it's through partnerships is key and maybe we look for who are new potential partners to bring into the conversation.
Do we reach out to some of the organizations in our community?
There's Lida on the Lake shore, there's the Hispanic Center, there's so many different organizations that we could maybe reach out to and expand our conversation.
For us, you know, our role, I view is to really help amplify some of this.
We're not the experts in this, but our role is to try to make it available to as many people as possible in a way that can gain some traction and hopefully build that chorus up.
So I think that that's kind of how I see, hopefully we continue to move forward with this.
We're going to, as a station continue to be dedicated to this.
We're building partnerships with, to your point, Kyle, with black public media with a vision maker Media, which is Native American documentary filmmakers, with Latino public media, with a Center for Arts or center for Asian American Media.
So there's several organizations we're looking to partner with to bring in the other voices and not have the story told about, but told by people about themselves.
And so that's how, you know, we're gonna continue to engage.
- Well I would just say that, you know, individually and as respective institutions, we have work to do.
And I think this year revealed that, right?
We have blind spots, biases, assumptions, even racism that impacts the day-to-day realities of how we operate here at Grand Valley State University.
And hearing that, right, turning a light on it, focusing on it, talking about it, addressing it, think is a crucial first step for us as we do this work.
Creating storied spaces where people can not just come and hear the sage on the stage, as it were.
We are an academic institution and learning is important, but creating spaces for small group or one-to-one conversation is invaluable for that work of transformation, I think.
And then lastly, we gotta get boots on the streets.
We gotta get people out there into neighborhoods actively working together to make Grand Rapids and West Michigan a happy and healthy place for all people.
- Yeah, I certainly agree with what's been shared, the partnerships and making sure that we're creating those spaces and bringing folks into the fold.
I know we've been looking at it.
I was actually talking with my colleague Maddie, who helped us on this series as well, this morning.
And one thing that we were talking about was even just in the day-to-day of how we do our programming at the Hauenstein Center, how the lessons that we've learned is going to impact this moving forward.
And we were looking at a staff at our event programming and realizing that we were doing these really cool events with our common ground initiative and our Koch Leadership Academy, but we weren't always providing space for folks to have conversations about the content they have heard.
So a very practical example, but we even changed our event format a little bit to include public receptions afterwards.
So once you hear that great content and hear those voices on the stage, you then can go out into the hall and talk to people who were sitting next to you and get their thoughts about what they had heard and where their thoughts may differ from yours.
So looking at how we can incorporate those things in our day-to-day programming and moving forward, how we'll continue to do that.
- All right, dare to dream, what's next?
- Well, I think we're gonna dive into the, Talking Together did a pre-survey and we still have a whole bunch of data that we need to dive into and figure out what we wanna do with that in addition to everything we did for this year.
So I think that there is that.
There is a new student organization that's starting that is focused on dialogue and civil discourse.
So the Center for Civil Discourse, the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse is gonna be working with that organization.
I think institutionally we really do need to focus on those small conversations.
So one experience I had this year were students coming up to me and saying, after they had participated in Talking Together, they had an idea, a topic and saying, can we talk about this?
I have an idea for a topic.
Can we have a talk about that?
And I had like a growing list.
So more conversations like that, and on a personal level, whatever encourages people to be brave and stay authentic is how we have those conversations.
So I think to remember that.
- All right, looking forward to it.
Looking forward to the future.
No end date on this, no expiration.
- Thank you to Patrick for everything that you did for Talking Together.
- So much.
- Thank you.
I had a great time and I didn't mean to be the grim reaper on this at the beginning, but you know, you gotta you gotta evaluate everything and when you're in the media these days, you're evaluating everything.
So we we're open there.
- Yeah, and your ability to evaluate in the moment has been a point of learning for me.
I mean, you model so well following the conversation and not demanding that it line up with your talking points or your questions.
I think that's a great example of what living into the work looks like.
We enter the conversation and we go where it goes together with the people around the table.
So thank you Patrick.
- So thank you.
- It's been my pleasure.
Thank you all so much.
- Keep that in.
(all laugh) - Let's keep the conversation going.