A few weeks ago, Living Room Conversations was lucky enough to be invited to present at The Urgency of Civility conference held in Washington, DC April 30-May 1, 2019.
Our Managing Partner Mary Gaylord represented us, along with AllSides co-founder and CEO John Gable, and Pearce Godwin, founder/CEO of the Listen First Project, Executive Director of National Conversation Project, and leader of the #ListenFirst Coalition of 200+ partner organizations. Additionally, Living Room Conversations volunteers Dr. David Sachs whom you read about in this weekly email and Tom McSteen of Sacred Discourse were in attendance.
The event was noteworthy for being sponsored by a number of Masonic groups–including the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, the San Luis Obispo Masons, Washington Masonic Charities, the Masonic Family Civility Project, and the Oakland Durant Rockridge Lodge. I knew you would be as fascinated as I was to hear how Living Room Conversations was received at this major event, so I interviewed Mary about her experiences.
What was your favorite thing about the Civility conference?
There was so much heart! The people I met at this conference are sincere and ready to roll up their shirtsleeves and do the work required to impact change. Rather than just talking about civility, every person I met at this conference lived it in the way they treated each other. It is a practice, after all, as are Living Room Conversations!
I attended this conference to collaborate with others who want to proliferate the practice of civility in our everyday encounters, in our communities, and in our country. These folks are truly interested in collaborating to spread the message and to grow the movement.
It was humbling to be in our nation’s capital and reflect on the words and intentions of those who had a hand in our country’s founding. I also had a chance to learn more about the Freemasons and their commitment to philanthropy and civility. At the George Washington Masonic Memorial (where the conference was held), visitors are gifted with a “George Washington’s Rules of Civility” booklet. There are 110 rules! One I like most is “Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ’tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.”
What did you learn about talking about Living Room Conversations across potential partisan divides?
Listen, listen, listen! The conference included an assortment of people of diverse political leanings. For instance, I engaged in a conversation with three other folks about climate change. It was clear that one person felt very different than the three of us. It was so easy to lean into the differences–and we spent time doing so. Then we shifted and talked about what we all hope for our children and grandchildren, finding we were closely aligned in wanting them to have a clean, safe environment. Once we spent some time connecting as humans, we were able to identify areas of overlap; common ground! It made me think that we often seem to default into exploring and exploiting our differences in difficult conversations; a good reminder that there is fertile ground for collaborative solutions in the places where we find commonality. Why not spend more time there?
Beth C. Raps, PhD