Ned Barnett

N&O forum will focus on talking across the political divide

Tea Party member Adam Kwasman, right, running for Congress, has a heated discussion at an anti-immigration protest in July 2014 in Oracle, Ariz. The N&O’s May 24 Community Voices forum will focus on talking across the political divide.
Tea Party member Adam Kwasman, right, running for Congress, has a heated discussion at an anti-immigration protest in July 2014 in Oracle, Ariz. The N&O’s May 24 Community Voices forum will focus on talking across the political divide. Getty Images file photo

Political polarization is getting to be like what Mark Twain said about the weather – everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.

We’re going to try. Our next Community Voices forum will focus on developing the listening skills and speaking tactics that might help you better understand people on the other side politically. The forum is titled “Talking Trump: How we can listen – and be heard – across the red-blue divide.”

It will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, at the James B. Hunt Library on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus. Go to nando.com/communityvoices to register. Admission is free and open to the public.

The forum will feature a five-member panel skilled in the art of communicating even when they encounter cultural differences or strong emotions. They will consider why polarization is growing more intense, what role the internet and social media play and how to have a good, or at least civil, conversation about political issues and politicians.

No matter which side you’re on, this discussion should prove useful. It’s not about making speeches at meetings. It’s about how to participate in a gathering of relatives or a workplace discussion or even a talk between spouses when the conversation turns to Donald Trump, Obamacare, HB2 or anything else that can lead to heated differences. This won’t be about winning arguments. It will be about avoiding arguing long enough to honestly consider another person’s perspective and perhaps recognize your own misconceptions and blind spots.

The panelists will include:

• Rev. Christopher Lee, associate pastor, Avondale Presbyterian Church, Charlotte. Lee is an African-American clergy member who has served predominately white congregations and regularly navigates social, racial and political differences.

• Saleisha Averhart, a Raleigh attorney and co-chair of Together We Will NC, an group formed after the November election to focus citizens actions on progressive issues.

• Lauren Foster, executive director of HopeLine in Raleigh, who works daily with the challenges of communicating in emotional situations.

• Leslie Boyd, program manager with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who also serves as one of only two Democrats on the nine-member Union County School Board. She’ll discuss the art of finding common ground on the local political level.

• J. Peder Zane, The News & Observer’s contributing opinion columnist, who will speak about the pitfalls of political stereotyping and how to have a political discussion without attacking or condescending.

Political polarization has grown so intense that many might feel there’s no point in even trying to talk with people with whom we profoundly disagree. And there probably isn’t any point if we come to the discussion with anger or frustration. But here’s a chance to try another approach and bring some tools to a political conversation other than pitchforks.

I hope many will turn out for this Community Voices. It will be a good – and much needed – talk about talking.

Barnett: 919-829-4512, nbarnett@newsobserver.com

If you go:

What: N&O Community Voices forum: “Talking Trump: How we can listen – and be heard – across the red-blue divide.”

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 24

Where: The James B. Hunt Library on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, 1070 Partners Way, Raleigh.

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