Honoring the Wisdom in Diversity Including a How To Guide to Transcending Politics and Upgrading Democracy TOGETHER

By: Amanda Kathryn Roman

For as long as I can remember, I have been curious about things that are different. I love to travel and immerse myself in local culture. I relish meeting new people. Enjoying a good meal with new foods is one of my favorite things to do with my husband. Listening to live music and visiting art installments makes my soul feel alive. I am sure that many people can relate to me on a number of these pleasures that life offers to us. So why is it so hard to be curious about things and people that are different from us politically?

I am grateful for a lesson that life taught me early on – honor the wisdom in diversity. It has served me well as I have increasingly become an individual that holds the tension in a conversation or room with differing perspectives; an advocate at heart that can empower others to discover common ground and build bridges… especially when it comes to matters that concern politics in the United States.

The first decade of my career was spent working for and building the Republican Party. I worked inside the beltway for institutions like the College Republican National Committee, a super-pac; Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, architect of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge; the Republican National Committee on the team that designed the Voter Vault; and the libertarian think tank, Reason Foundation.

While my values and philosophical leanings remain, I have spent the second decade getting to know and working to support amazing organizations and innovative individuals that are focused on moving beyond typical political boundaries to face our challenges and get results. During the upcoming American Citizens Summit you will meet and learn about many of them: Healthy Democracy, which I helped scale beyond the borders of Oregon; Bridge Alliance, which I proudly co-founded to serve the network of organizations dedicated to political bridge building; Participatory Budgeting Project, where I serve proudly as a PB Amplifier; the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, where I have been an active member for 7 years; and Living Room Conversations which I co-founded in friendship with Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn just to name a few. Be sure to tune-in because, by and large, this network of innovators is not covered by mainstream media

My work actually began when I was in junior high school and was selected to become a community organizer in Somerset County, NJ - a red county in a blue state. I learned from a young age that when you start by getting to know the people in your community you look at the challenges you face through a very different lens. If you know someone before learning of their political perspectives on any given issue, you are much more likely to understand why they hold such positions… and honoring the wisdom in diversity comes somewhat naturally.

I live my life in passionate pursuit of service to empowering healthier individuals, communities, and democracy. And I firmly believe that we need to elevate ordinary, everyday Americans so that many more of us can become more civically engaged in our communities and our country. I have come to think of this Summit as a really large public conversation that will transcend partisanship and bring Americans from all different walks of life together in one place to co-create a more effective democracy with solutions that cross the divides.

I hope you will join us, but in the meantime I encourage you to do some preparation to try and create a transpartisan experience in your own life beforehand.

I challenge you to take these 5 steps that will guide you through the process of transcending politics and prepare you to join the Americans working together across divides.

Step One Take a complete media hiatus for 1 week. No tv news, no talk radio, no blogs, no newspapers, etc. Just take a break from all of it. Spend that time getting outside and getting active!

Step Two Over the course of 1 week, select 3 people that you care about in your life that you feel you disagree with on an (or many) issue(s). Invite them to do something fun with you – take a hike, go to a concert, enjoy a meal at a new restaurant together. Don’t talk about politics at all – just get to know each other and enjoy each other’s company!

Step Three Change your media diet for 1 week; consume the news from media outlets that you know you would tend to disagree with. Do your best to listen and/or read with an open mind without focusing on reacting, just consuming.

Step Four Go back to those 3 people and ask if they will help you understand where they stand on a particular issue where you think you have a disagreement. Spend 20-30 minutes curiously asking each of them questions about why they hold the belief they do, and what life experiences or information informs their perspective; listen to understand.

Step Five Create a new media diet for 1 week that combines some of the media outlets you tend to go to and perhaps a few new ones that you have learned about. When you read the news, look for common ground across the platforms, no matter how small it may seem.

In the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most curious minds and innovative problem solvers, the noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. Join me on the

journey to understanding and reconnecting with our family, friends, neighbors, and

communities to upgrade our democracy TOGETHER!

Amanda Kathryn Roman, Social Entrepreneur

Amanda is a bold changemaker with over two decades of leadership bridging divides, identifying common ground, and elevating the voices of others to make a difference in the world. She has sophisticated hands-on experience inspiring and building broad coalitions and leading teams with diverse stakeholders to achieve their goals. Amanda’s work began in her home state of NJ and took her throughout all 50 states, including a decade in Washington, DC. Her specialty is empowerment coaching for women, teams, and organizations through her firm, Living Out Loud. Amanda’s coaching and mentoring is focused on catalyzing the discovery of strengths, the integration of personal development and wellness, and an increased capacity to learn new skills to turn passion into action for lasting impact.

As a transpartisan thought leader and strategist, Amanda is dedicated to fostering healthy, constructive, and cooperative solutions for our communities and our country. She is a Founding Partner & Principal of CTG Associates; co-founder of Bridge Alliance; advises Democracy Café and Living Room Conversations; as well as supports the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation and The Participatory Budgeting Project. Amanda is a founding partner, with Joan Blades, of Living Room Conversations, which aims to use respectful conversation to reweave the fabric of our civil society and produce practical solutions to the challenges we face together.

For more information, or to contact Amanda, please click here.

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This article appears in: 2016 Catalyst, Issue 11: Sacred America, Sacred World