In an effort to foster productive dialogue, USA TODAY is partnering with the #ListenFirst Coalition for a two-day event creating one-on-one virtual discussions among thousands of Americans with different points of view.
Participants 18 and older will be matched with a conversation partner for conversations over June 12 and 13. The #ListenFirst Coalition includes more than 300 organizations across the country.
The event, dubbed “America Talks,” comes as Americans increasingly worry about partisanship, with Republicans and Democrats divided over everything from perceptions about the legitimacy of the 2021 presidential election to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 580,000 people in the United States.
Pearce Godwin, Listen First Project founder & CEO, called the event a chance for Americans to realize their similarities.
“America needs to talk, and we need to listen to those unlike ourselves. The way we’re demonizing each other across differences is a real threat to all Americans, our families, our communities, and our country. America Talks is a chance for us to take a courageous and necessary step toward healing America,” Godwin said in a statement.
The event kicks off the fourth annual National Week of Conversation (NWOC), from June 14-June 20.
“It’s easy to sit back and point fingers, to lose hope. What if instead we stepped forward and got real with each other, extending curiosity, good will and grace? That’s what America Talks and the National Week of Conversation are all about,” Godwin added.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly talked about the importance of unity, particularly after the one-term presidency of Donald Trump left Americans deeply polarized.
Those interested in America Talks can sign up on the event’s website. Participants will be asked survey questions to be matched with a conversation partner who answered the same questions differently. Each will then be sent a link via email to join their face-to-face video conversation in June.
America Talks and NWOC align with Public Agenda and USA TODAY’s Hidden Common Ground Initiative, “which challenges the narrative of a divided America by identifying and amplifying the areas where Americans agree on solutions to polarizing issues,” according to the news release.
Godwin cited new research by the initiatives that showed “79% of Americans believe creating opportunities for conversation among people with differing views and values would be effective to bridge divisions.” Also, unreleased data shared by Listen First Project partner More in Common showed that 66% say “the differences between Americans are not so big that we cannot come together,” according to Godwin.
“One conversation, even if multiplied by thousands of people, won’t heal our country’s deep divides. But it’s a start,” Godwin said.
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