Every day, headlines, social media posts, and opinion pages show that Americans are divided in their views, and these divisions are solidifying into walls between communities.
On March 23, Penn GSE’s Harris Sokoloff and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement tried to show people ways to build bridges at an event at Philadelphia’s Liberty Museum.
“When I get engaged in a conversation with somebody and they are pushing against me, rather than push back, I try to think what circle I can draw that brings us both together. Where might we find some commonality?” Sokoloff told WHYY.
The “Can We Talk” program evolved from a series of conversations organized by Penn GSE’s Jonathan Zimmerman and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement after the 2016 election. The first sessions brought together students from Penn and Carin University, a Christian college in Philadelphia. The Penn Project has since hosted sessions for other colleges, other audiences, and in other cities.
“The people that come are obviously a self-selected audience, and they are hungry for constructive political conversation,” Sokoloff told WHYY. “They’re tired of political conversation that decays into name-calling or into position-grandstanding. They want something that is constructive and helpful.”