An urgent and hopeful opportunity to turn things around developed and supported by a wide variety of people concerned about the fate of our nation
Toxic polarization — the way we demonize each other across differences — is a grave threat to our families, communities, and country. It’s increasingly hitting close to home causing breakdown from the dinner table to family vacation, from the workplace to worship services. The American experiment will not survive unless we reverse this trend. We’ll remain paralyzed in the face of mounting challenges until we take the first step of turning down the heat, then create a new foundation of trust and grace upon which we can solve problems and achieve a more perfect union, together.
This invitation is for people who refuse to give up on the promise of America, who refuse to give up on each other. Over the course of this experience, detailed on the Experience page, participants will listen with curiosity, speak from their own experience, and connect with respect. They will speak freely and be truly heard while having grace for one another. They will ultimately have a chance to fix things together that they broadly agree are broken. Most importantly, they’ll illuminate for the rest of the nation the path to honoring difference without disunion.
Where could this first step lead? It’s up to the people who come to the table! All activities and outcomes originating from Meeting of America will be chosen and driven by the participants themselves. This is why it’s absolutely mission critical that all American voices are fully represented. We’re creating a space, a process, and an invitation to spend time together getting to know and trust each other as fellow Americans, actively work together on areas of shared concern, and raise our collective voice on areas of common interest.
Those who refuse to give up and instead show up, for each other and for the country we love, will make a bold statement of hope, courage, belonging, trust, and commitment.
Two Americans from different backgrounds had the same sinking feeling and a similar idea – one was a southern conservative – the other a northern liberal. They both saw families and friends breaking up over politics – both felt a sense of doom for our future and when they met in late 2020 they inspired each other to do something.
Pearce Godwin and Andrew Shue grew up in small towns, but saw this as a moment to go big or go home. Godwin had built the #ListenFirst Coalition of more than 400 organizations bridging divides; Shue is an idea guy, a successful entrepreneur and producer. They had seen “top down” establishment efforts fail and wanted to give the American people a platform to rise above their differences and the divisive noise.
To co-create this mass demonstration of civility, humanity, and courage, Shue and Godwin called on community leaders of all stripes – exceptional individuals such as grassroots organizer Heather Erbe, radio host Karen Hunter, conservative messengers Paul Teller and Generra Peck, University and Corporate Presidents Sylvia Burwell and Lauren Hobart, marketing and business mavericks, Gary Briggs and Lincoln Brown, migrant farm worker advocate Monica Ramirez and militia member Robert Cornett just to highlight a few.
Meeting of America is now led by an ever-growing group of fellow Americans from wildly different backgrounds and beliefs working together to mobilize millions to tackle division together before it’s too late. What these leaders and ordinary Americans have in common is their love of country and desire to be part of finding a way forward together.
Pioneering businesses, faith communities, universities, philanthropists, and civic organizations have contributed people and funding to pilot Meeting of America.
Hundreds of people from these supporting organizations were the first to experience Meeting of America late last year.
100% of them said they felt heard.
97% said they will help recruit others to participate in Meeting of America when the doors open to all Americans.
We scientifically measured the impact on participants and were struck by meaningful improvements on the degrees of dislike, anger, and empathy toward people on the other side. Consistent with decades of research on the “contact hypothesis,” sentiments improved not only toward the other individuals in the conversation, but toward the social / political groups they represent.
Now, a team of local Kentuckians are inviting their friends and neighbors to be pioneers on this mission for America. Their robust grassroots recruitment effort will ensure all voices are represented in the conversations as we seek to prove the viability of Meeting of America in terms of both scale and balance.
An example, co-created and signed by participants in the Partner Pilot:
As we approach our nation’s 250th birthday, division and distrust are testing whether the American experiment can endure.
As people of all backgrounds and beliefs, we refuse to give up on the promise of America. We join together to make good on our country’s founding ideals: freedom, equality, justice, and self-government.
To build the bonds of a more perfect union, we will respect the value of every American, listen with curiosity to understand those different from ourselves, and relate to each other with honesty and humility.
We invite our fellow Americans to join us in this commitment to one nation indivisible.