Breakthroughs Online
April 2010 Issue No. 3

In recent days we have said farewell to two courageous women who taught us much about bridging divides and stepping out in faith.


Denise Wood, with her husband John, piloted a model for connecting communities in Pasadena by applying a new "mind-set" that calls out the best qualities in everyone, thinks for the whole community rather than just one group, and builds lasting relationships. Denise's work helped to inspire Hope in the Cities. She spoke of her faith in practical terms: "It gets you up in the morning, prevents burn-out, teaches you to listen to other people, to believe that things will happen . . . it gives the courage to make a forward pass and believe that someone up ahead will catch it." 


Cleiland Donnan found the courage to step out of her comfort zone in Richmond's privileged West End to heal racial divisions in Richmond. She likened her change to "peeling an onion, layer by layer." Sometimes, she would say, "pride gets in the way and I do not want to change today's layer." Her passion for reconciliation took her to India, Europe and Latin America.


This newsletter carries news of the launch of Trustbuilding, a book that could hardly be more relevant given the breakdown of trust in our national life. It gives news of Richmond becoming a place of pilgrimage for those seeking racial healing, as well as young American peacebuilders who will join the Caux Scholars Program. Zeke Reich, a CSP graduate, writes a commentary on healing the cultural divide.


Remember, you can share this newsletter with your friends!

Forward to a Friend 
Trustbuilding Book Launch 
Rob Corcoran signs books at launch (Photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)
Trustbuilding Book Launch
"You have written this book at a time of sharp polarization, characterized by deep divides," said Tim Kaine, the former governor of Virginia, at the launch of Rob Corcoran's book, Trustbuilding: an honest conversation on race, reconciliation, and responsibility on March 15.

"Hope in the Cities focuses on the 'still small voice', not loud and flashy approaches, or neon signs," said Kaine, who chairs the Democratic National Committee. "Listening is a lost art in this world. Hope in the Cities is creating a space where people can talk. It is incredibly important work. . . . That listening thing is needed more than ever, and not just in racial issues."

More than 100 community leaders, including representatives of local and state government, business, and non-profit organizations, attended the event at the Library of Virginia. Trustbuilding tells how Richmond, a city starkly divided by a history of slavery and racism, has modeled approaches to facilitating honest and inclusive dialogue, acknowledging unhealed history, and engaging diverse partnerships.

"Trust is the social capital on which our democratic institutions depend," Corcoran said. "Today we have a huge trust deficit in America. How do we build that bridge of trust? This is the core of my book. Because the most-needed reforms in our communities require levels of political courage and trust-based collaboration that can only be achieved by individuals who have the vision, integrity, and persistence to call out the best in others and sustain deep and long-term efforts."

"What are the 'unspeakables' that still need honest conversation in Richmond?" asked Corcoran. "Who must be part of these conversations? . . .

Read the complete story here
A Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope 
Duke group at Reconciliation Statue (Photo: Rob Corcoran)
Duke Students
Students from Duke University Divinity School visited Richmond this month on a "pilgrimage of pain and hope." They walked the Slave Trail and explored the impact of slavery and racism on the metropolitan region today.

Chris Rice, the co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at the Divinity School, who led the group, said, "None of us will be the same. The weaving together of truth and grace was unusual and powerful. As we reached home and gathered for a final prayer, one pilgrim said, 'If every Duke seminarian did this pilgrimage it would change the world. Really.'"

Read the complete story here.

Johns Hopkins Forum


Rob Corcoran and Jana Carter at forum    (Photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)

Johns Hopkins
Rob Corcoran, author of Trustbuilding, spoke at the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University on March 9. He joined fellow panelists David Campt, a nationally recognized race relations consultant, and Jana Carter of Search for Common Ground to discuss "Conflict in Our Own Backyard: Prospects for Racial Reconciliation."

Corcoran noted that while America is more comfortable with diversity in general, racial and economic separation has actually increased in many urban areas . . .

Read the complete story here. 
Peeling Back the Onion Skin
By Rob Corcoran

Rev. Sylvester Turner and Cleiland Donnan
Rev. Sylvester Turner with Cleiland Donnan in Richmond, VA (Photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)
In 1972 Cleiland Donnan decided to be part of the solution to racial division in Richmond. It was an unlikely choice for someone who spent her life teaching the fox trot and social graces to the children of Richmond's affluent West End.

Her evolution as a risk taker began when she observed young people, including her own neighbors, experiencing the turmoil of school integration.

She often compared her personal journey of change to peeling an onion skin layer by layer. "Sometimes pride gets in the way and I do not want to change today's layer." . . .

Read the complete story here.

A Diverse CSP Class Takes Shape 

2009 Caux Scholars completing a group assignment
CSP Update
Nine outstanding students from the U.S. will take part in the Caux Scholars Program this summer, along with equally remarkable students from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Program Director Kathy Aquilina and Randy Ruffin, who chairs the executive committee, report that it was a challenging task to select the 2010 class from many varied and impressive applications.

The Americans will have an opportunity to interact with and learn from scholars who come from conflict regions, such as the Balkans, South Asia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Also represented will be scholars from regions where human rights and democratic freedoms take a back seat to keeping a government in power, such as Iran, Vietnam, and Egypt.

For the first time in years, there is a scholar from Serbia as well as from Kosovo and Macedonia.Another scholars hails from the Tribal Areas in Pakistan and has overcome numerous obstacles to pursue university and graduate studies.

It costs $6000 per student to run the program. An alumni group is working to raise funds for a $3000 scholarship and a $1000 travel grant to one applicant from a conflict region selected by them. There is a need to raise funds through grants and contributions to provide five additional scholarships. Any support you can give this program will be greatly appreciated.

The Open Wounds of the Culture Wars  

By Zeke Reich


Zeke ReichThe US is groaning with the pain of the "culture wars"---the battles of politics and religion that have raged between liberal and conservative, Christian and secular, "red" and "blue" since at least the 1960s, if not the 1860s. Both sides have suffered and felt oppressed by the other, and both have in their turn oppressed and caused suffering. Many people who criticize the current administration were outraged by the "treason" of Bush-haters two years ago, and many who were marching in the streets two years ago are now shocked that Obama-haters could be so negative towards a sitting president. The cycles of anger, defensiveness and hatred go back and forth as we lurch from hot-button issue to hot-button issue---and when this reality is confronted, as it rarely is, most commentators find only cause for despair. But I think it's time to come at these matters with a little more humility and a little more hope.


I was born and raised in the heart of New York City in a culture where we pride ourselves on our "liberalism" and "tolerance." The community I consider my own is passionate about rooting out bigotry and contempt directed at people because of their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality: not that we always succeed, but we like to think we aim pretty high and correct ourselves when we can. But mention the possibility of showing real open-mindedness toward a Republican, a conservative, or a religious Christian, and many people I know will simply refuse. Cringing a bit, they will say, "But those people hate us! I can't let my guard down for a moment!" And what many have called "the last acceptable form of bigotry among liberals" will stay in place indefinitely."


I find the deepest challenge of all to be acknowledging my own role in continuing the pattern of mutual distrust. When have I slipped into bashing a noxious television commentator or dismissed out of hand the political rallies I disagree with? When have I failed to speak out against my liberal community's contempt for conservatives? And as I begin the slow work of identifying the multitude of unthinking contributions I make to intolerance, recognizing how I am caught up in the same cycles of fear and aggression as my compatriots on both sides, I have to ask myself the question: how can I begin to make amends for my role in the endless American culture wars? . . .


Read the complete editorial here.

Hope you enjoyed this issue of Breakthroughs Online. Please share this newsletter with your friends and forward it to those you know have a passion for trustbuilding. Visit our website for more information.
Thank you!
In This Issue
Trustbuilding Book Launch
A Pilgrimage
Johns Hopkins Forum
Peeling Back the Onion
A Diverse CSP Class
Open Wounds
Upcoming Events
Global Update
Supporting IofC
Initiatives of Change is constantly producing materials and programs that help bridge divides in our communities. We need your help to continue building trust in the world.
Did you know that 70% of our income comes from individuals just like you?
To successfully launch the 2010 series of workshops, forums, Hope in the Cities programming, the Caux Scholars Program and other outreaches to communities across the U.S., we need to raise $450,000.
Your contribution makes a huge difference! 
Make a Donation
Upcoming Events
Gandhi Voyage of Dialogue and Discovery in D.C: June 7-12

May 22: Toronto

Rob Corcoran will give the keynote address at the IofC Canada Annual Meeting, and will join Susan Corcoran in facilitating a workshop on community partnerships.

June 2-4: Tulsa OK

Rob Corcoran will speak at a national forum,
"Reconciliation in America: Moving Beyond Racial Violence," sponsored by The John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation.


Mountain House

Click here for the full schedule of Caux summer conferences.
Global Update
Read about the Life Matters course in Australia and the remarkable work of José Carlos Léon Vargas and his solidarity with the poorest of the poor in Mexico. Click here to read the latest Global Update!
Follow-up Links