It's Inauguration Day 2017
Whether you have looked forward to or dreaded this day, it is finally here. The peaceful transfer of power that happens in our country every four years takes place. And now we all get to see what happens next.
And while we can't see the future, and in many instances can't control it, there is something that we are all in charge of: the words we each use and the people we choose to say them to. This is important, because while many forces seek to push us apart and tell us we have no common ground, we can only shape our common destiny by coming together. That's why this seems like an especially appropriate time to launch a website that's dedicated to the idea of engaging in meaningful conversations with friends, relatives or neighbors who hold different views.
The political middle feels like a pretty empty place right now. In part that may be because it has been stigmatized as a place of cowardice and moral bankruptcy. But we view it instead as a place of challenge and bravery; of rigorous acts of compassion and compromise.
In upstate New York, a middle school teacher named Stephanie MacArthur realized how hard it can be for her students to reach across the considerable divides they faced in their day-to-day lives. She came up with an idea that she and her students later dubbed "The Compliments Project." As anyone who has been in the 8th grade knows, it's not always a kind place. In fact, it can be arbitrarily cruel and differences of opinion or personality can be exaggerated and used to humiliate and hurt. But MacArthur thought better of her students. She thought that she could offer them a genuine way to connect. This video demonstrates the result.
MacArthur said in an interview that this project "created a safer classroom space; plain and simple. I realized that students were sharing and opening up more in the following units because most of them had been vulnerable during this activity...I do know that my classroom was different for the better."
We don't offer this video to you because we think that giving compliments will solve all our political problems. And we're not offering it because we think that the action we're asking you to take will be easy. In fact, we offer it for the opposite reason: to inspire you to do something we know will be hard. To reach out to someone whose beliefs or actions may have hurt you and say, "I see you. I know you are fully human."
We hope you'll take time to learn more about our mission, and about how to start a conversation with someone who disagrees with you. Our site also offers some thought-provoking resources; it's a list that will continue growing.
It's Inauguration Day, and no matter how we feel about that, the truth is that we Americans are in this together. We hope you'll join us in trying to find a path we can all travel.
- Mara Gorman