Elisa Batista, bilingual journalist, award-winning blogger. "Social media tools plus in-person meetings like the Living Room Conversations have the potential to transform our democracy for the better. They allow for anyone, regardless of background and political affiliation, to come together to be more involved in our civil and political processes — and to work together for the betterment of our country.
Erik Fogg, political consultant, coauthor of Wedged. In school, Erik bailed from mechanical engineering to pursue his passion: political science. He hasn't looked back since. He's been blogging and writing essays on improving American democracy since he was young, but his greatest influence for launching Something to Consider was his realization that those that disagreed with him had much more to teach him than those that already agree. He believes everyone can adopt this mindset and become hungry to learn from each other in political dialogue.
Carla Goldstein, Chief External Affairs Officer, Omega Institute. As CEAO of the nation's premier holistic learning center, Carla speaks, teaches and writes on the need for a transformational framework for social change that evolves beyond the limits of oppositional activism. Prior to joining Omega a decade ago, Carla spent 25 years in public interest advocacy, working extensively on issues related to women’s rights, poverty, public health, and criminal and social justice. She blogs on Huffington Post, Feminist.com, MomsRising, It's Time Network and the WAMC 51% Roundtable, and serves on a number of advisory boards advancing women's rights around the world. Carla cofounded the Omega Women's Leadership Center, which is dedicated to inspiring and training women to #DoPowerDifferently.
John Guido, board member of the Bastiat Society, Spark Freedom, Taliesin Nexus. Graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in Agricultural Finance and started his career with The Morning Star Packing Company. The libertarian DNA behind the self-management culture at Morning Star was the catalyst for John’s early passion for libertarian social values. He quickly incorporated these ideas into all areas of his life, realizing them to be the most respectful and peaceful way to promote human flourishing and help communities solve today’s most difficult problems. After 15 rewarding years working with some of world’s leading agribusinesses and assisting many Ag Tech start-ups, he decided to channel his energy full time into organizations and ventures that advocate for a free society. John has taken a leading role with The Foundation for Harmony and Prosperity, facilitating Strategic Initiatives and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Bastiat Society, Spark Freedom and Taliesin Nexus.
Liz Joyner, cofounder, the Village Square. "With the immense, twisted, enduring dysfunction we see every day in our political dialogue - the kind of dysfunction that makes negotiating solutions to pressing civic problems impossible — it may be surprising that part of the solution seems remarkably simple: we've got to talk with each other again. In the past, across-the-aisle relationships were a part of our everyday lives — in our neighbourhoods, civic clubs, churches — even bowling leagues. But demographic trends and technology have us spending our time with the people who think just like we do, and we no longer seem to have the ability - and willingness - to reach across differences to solve problems. Rather than waiting around for Washington to fix this, Living Room Conversations revives the spirit of American democracy at its true center — in hometowns, between neighbours, in your living room. In a country where we aspire to government of the people, by the people, and for the people, perhaps that is as it should be."
Eric Liu, founder, Citizen University. "Citizenship begins at home — literally. That's why I'm proud to be a partner of Living Room Conversations. By bringing people together across partisan divides for simple human-scale interactions in living rooms and similar spaces, Living Room Conversations forces us to treat each other with courtesy, to listen to each other with respect, and to develop some empathy for those with whom we may — even after the conversation — disagree strongly. Conversation by conversation, this is a powerful way to practice the art of being a citizen."
Mark Meckler, cofounder, Tea Party Patriots. "I am an enthusiastic champion for Living Room Conversations because over the last several years I've come to realize that the largest divide in this country is not between the citizens of one party or another, but between the citizens and the Ruling Elite in Washington, DC and the state capitols. Those in power want us to hate each other, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, and state against state. They like conservatives to hate liberals, Democrats to hate Republicans, and they want us hating each other over any issue where they can foment discord. They do this because it is profitable for them. While the majority of Americans say that Washington, DC and government in general are broken, the majority of those in office think things are working well because they gain money, power and prestige from the division they sow. The status quo does not serve the people of this country and Living Room Conversations is a critical step in helping people to see that they have a lot in common with those they've been told by the politicians and the media that they should hate. Only by learning to respect each other, and work together in this way is real change possible."
Parker J. Palmer, author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage and Renewal. "American democracy was founded with the words "We the People." When we can't talk with one another with respect across our lines of difference, democracy suffers. Civil discourse is not merely about watching our tongues or minding our manners. It's about valuing our differences and the insights that can come from a dialogue of differences, which help us forge a rough consensus on the "common good" and hold our elected leaders accountable to it. I value the Living Room Conversations project because it "puts wheels" on all these ideas and creates a vehicle in which we can move together toward "a more perfect Union."
Jacqueline Salit, president, IndependentVoting.org. Living Room Conversations brings Americans together to create new kinds of political conversations. I see them as small-scale models for a more developed political culture, something we desperately need. Independent voters don’t like partisanship or the politics of 'party uber alles'. We’ve done Living Room Conversations in San Francisco and Philadelphia and the process of coming together was as powerful as or more powerful than the particular outcomes. There is growing consensus that changing the political rules of the game in a nonpartisan direction is the way out of the divide. Living Room Conversations is an important building block for that.
Bill Shireman, President and CEO, Future 500. Bill Shireman helps the world’s largest companies and most impassioned activists — from Coca-Cola, General Motors, Nike, Mitsubishi and Weyerhaeuser, to Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Oxfam and the Sierra Club — stop battling each other and find common ground. Breaking through the traditional left-right divide, Bill's books and studies prove that we can protect the earth, promote freedom and increase prosperity at the same time — if the raging ideologues on both the right and the left would just open their eyes and minds.
Henry Tsai, founder, Hi From The Other Side. Before founding Hi From the Other Side, Henry worked in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, in the cabinet of Yahoo’s CEO, with the San Francisco startup Astrid (later acquired by Yahoo), and Bain & Company. He also serves on the advisory board of Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.
Audrey Addison Williams, founder and president, Healing Soul of America, Inc. "Living Room Conversations is as powerful as the simplicity in which it is grounded. It is a brilliant concept, deeply grounded in an understanding of American culture, that cuts across ethnicity, political affiliation, class, religion, gender identification and race. We Americans are usually respectful of a guest in our home. When you are a guest in our home, you cease to be the villain or the enemy. You are our guests."