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From the President
Since the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt, my Public Conversations colleagues and I have continued to talk about and reflect upon what has stayed with us following these violent and shocking events. What are we left with?
We’re left with deep sympathy for those most directly affected—the injured, the families of those killed and traumatized bystanders.
We’re left with compassion for our Watertown neighbors, who are recovering from a manhunt that involved hundreds of law enforcement officials.
We’re left with our own personal reactions and the meaning we’re each making.
One colleague describes a "progression of thinking and feeling" —from rage to revenge to curiosity. I hold onto images—some horrible, others inspirational and surprising:
- Volunteers, bystanders, first responders and medical personnel ran toward the bombs. Their courage saved lives and inspires me to run toward that which I fear.
- After the capture, people lined the street to cheer for police, FBI, and other public officials; College students in Boston greeted law enforcement officers with enthusiasm usually reserved for sports figures.
Most importantly, we are left with connection. At Public Conversations, we talk about common humanity as the basis for connection and care between people with vastly different experiences, perspectives, and values. After the bombing, people instinctively reached out to one another, carrying strangers to safety, bound together by a shared sense of common humanity. Ultimately, this profound connection is what I’m left with.
What are you left with?
Cherry Muse, President
From the Field
Participants at our dialogue event "Guns: An Evening for Story and Dialogue" reflect on personal experiences that have shaped their perspectives on issues relating to guns.
Civic and Community Life
Guns: An Evening for Story and Dialogue
In partnership with The Christian Science Monitor and The Mantle Project, Public Conversations hosted "Guns: An Evening for Story and Dialogue." Three storytellers shared their experiences with and perspectives on guns. The more than fifty audience members then reflected on their own experiences and discussed them in small groups, with a chance to ask each other questions for better understanding. All participants generated ideas for questions that might yield more constructive conversations about guns and gun issues.
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
Since October, Public Conversations has been working with the Diocese of Pittsburgh to design, pilot and replicate dialogues. The aim is to create an "infrastructure for conversation" that will enable people at all levels of Episcopal life in the Pittsburgh area to have effective conversations about the issues that divide, as well as unite them. Most recently, Public Conversations trained local facilitators to carry the work forward throughout the diocese.
TOLERANCE in Nigeria
In February, Public Conversations continued work with the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Nigeria to promote religious and national coexistence. In this second phase of the TOLERANCE (Training of Leaders for Religious and National Co-existence) Project, Public Conversations presented two-day workshops to two Community Conflict Management and Mitigation Regional Councils. These training events built local capacity to manage conflict in areas that have seen numerous instances of sporadic but serious interfaith conflict.
Social Responsibility in New Jersey
In February, Public Conversations designed and facilitated the New Jersey YMCA Alliance's first Graham Social Responsibility Conference. Over 250 people from Y's around the state engaged in discussion and reflection about how to strengthen the commitment to social responsibility in their organizations.
El Cajon Youth Green Access
Funded by the Foundation for Youth Investment, PCWest facilitated a series of four dialogues in El Cajon CA on youth outdoor access. Youth program providers, school representatives, local cultural brokers, and government officials engaged in dialogue around cultural difference, the changing demographics of the community, and socio-economic barriers to outdoor access. At the project’s conclusion, participants co-created a strategic plan to increase access to green spaces and outdoor programs for youth in El Cajon.
The Family Dinner Project: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
In April, The Family Dinner Project delivered two workshops to the Lynn Housing Authority's Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support group. This growing population of caregivers spent the morning brainstorming strategies for making the dinner table a place of security, love and fun. They shared ideas for building patterns of healthy communication across generations, getting teenagers to turn off phones and come to dinner, and asking questions that invite children to share more of themselves. They also each made a veggie lasagna to take home for family dinner that night.
Dialogue Club at Bridgewater College!
Public Conversations is delighted to announce that Bridgewater College in Virginia has become the second official Dialogue Club campus. The start of this coming academic year will see Bridgewater Dialogue Club join the Brown Dialogue Club in this innovative campus program, and more are on the way! Public Conversations is pleased to continue supporting Bridgewater College's Academic Citizenship work with programs that empower students to carry dialogue into their community.
Continuing Work with Gordon College
Public Conversations is delighted to be continuing its relationship with Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts college in Wenham MA. Recent work includes a program organized by the Biology Department and with funding from the BioLogos Foundation to enhance scientific literacy among clergy, as well as a training program for students who then went on to facilitate diversity- and inclusion-related dialogues as part of Gordon's Beyond Colorblind week.
Political Engagement at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (KSG)
In March, Public Conversations actively contributed to the design and facilitation of KSG's Institute of Politics conference "Beyond Voting: Non-electoral Political Engagement" to which each of 23 colleges and universities from around the country sent two representatives. In addition to macro-level collaboration, Public Conversations led an experiential session entitled "Questions for Contention or Connection: The Power of Inquiry."
A Different Conversation about Marriage Equality/Gay Marriage
In March, Public Conversations moderated a panel discussion at the University of Wisconsin at Fox Valley on the topic of Marriage Equality/Gay Marriage. The panel was designed to model a more civil, connected and reflective conversation across different perspectives and experiences. The panel was followed the next day by a workshop on Reflective Structured Dialogue, focused on how community members imagine dialogue being of value in diverse campus settings.
Engineering Society of Detroit Institute
In March, Public Conversations delivered an introductory workshop to a group of 25 community facilitators brought together by the Engineering Society of Detroit Institute. The purpose of the training was to introduce them to Reflective Structured Dialogue as a potential approach to engaging critical community development and civic engagement issues in Detroit.