“To assume that we are entitled to speak only of what we know by virtue of our own experience is not only to reinstate an empiricism: it is to institutionalize parochialism. Most of us have not been very good at listening to others and learning from them, but the present challenge is surely to find ways of comprehending those other worlds—including our relations with them and our responsibilities toward them—without being invasive, colonizing and violent. If we are to free ourselves from universalizing our own parochialisms, we need to learn how to reach beyond particularities, to speak of larger questions without diminishing the significance of the places and the people to which they are accountable. In doing so, in enlarging and examining our imaginations, we might come to realize not only that our lives are ‘radically entwined with the lives of distant strangers’ but also that we bear a continuing and unavoidable responsibility for their needs in times of distress.” – Derek Gregory

To learn more about the 2019 Civic Institute and other sessions you may choose to attend, visit this link.

The Benefit of the Doubt: Preparing Ourselves for Authentic Engagement and Productive Disagreement

What does it mean to engage with each other in “good faith”? What does it mean to afford our neighbor “the benefit of the doubt”? What, exactly, is the benefit of assuming the best in a stranger? There are plenty of opportunities to become involved as a formal practitioner of dialogue and deliberation, but far fewer chances for us to examine the ways we interact with friends, neighbors, and strangers interpersonally. This session is about how to act–how to let down our individual and collective defenses to bring strangeness closer and become comfortable living with the ambiguity and uncertainty that characterizes community work and public identity.

This isn’t easy. Talking about challenging issues in a divided political climate is hard. Listening to those we disagree with is hard. Changing our own mind is even harder. But what other choice do we have? Finding opportunities to bridge divides and discuss difficult issues in a way that prioritizes understanding over consensus is the first step–we have got to talk it out. During this interactive session, you’ll hear from Alabama communities that are engaging citizens around some of the most divisive public issues facing communities today, and how we can all do better as individuals when we let down our guard and afford each other the benefit of the doubt. 

Speaker details are forthcoming. View FAQs and save your seat today here! If you have additional questions, contact the event organizer, Kate Zeliff, at kmauldin@mathewscenter.org. We hope to see you on August 16th!