Confronting Polarization in America


MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2018

7:00pm – 9:00pm

Rockville Senior Center
1150 Carnation Dr, Rockville, MD

Conventional wisdom suggests that we are living in a moment of extreme political polarization in the United States. If true, history shows us that such divided societies have bleak trajectories. Democracies struggle to survive when their citizens see one another as enemies.

This panel discussion will bring together four experts and practitioners working to explain and address extreme political polarization in America from four different perspectives. From their experience in activism, storytelling, scholarship, organizing, and teaching, our panelists will present wisdom and information on the state of political polarization in our country, and share practical actions participants can take to safeguard our democracy from the forces of division.

The discussion will address such questions as:

  • Is the conventional wisdom correct – is polarization in the U.S. worsening?
  • Does polarization always have negative effects on societies?
  • What are the forces driving polarization – both at individual and societal levels?
  • How can the negative effects of polarization be addressed or reversed?

As a result of attending the event, participants will:

  • Better understand the current polarized environment in American politics
  • Better understand the causes and costs of extreme political polarization
  • Gain practical knowledge and opportunities for action to help reduce political polarization

donna2Donna Murphy, Regional Coordinator, Better Angels
Donna is a Regional Coordinator for Better Angels, a bipartisan citizen’s movement working to unify our divided nation. By bringing “red” and “blue” Americans together into a working alliance, the organization builds new ways for Americans to talk to one another, participate together in public life, and influence the direction of the nation. Donna has been organizing Better Angels workshops for the past year to bring Americans from different political sides together for civil and constructive dialogue. She has worked as an economist in the public and private sector, and most recently was a Management Analyst at the State Department. She lived for nine years in Japan and South Korea, and is the author of three books.

Paul-PortraitPaul Costello, CEO, New Story Leadership; Author
Paul Costello is an educator, writer, and recognized expert in narrative practice, a method for using storytelling to unite and heal societies in conflict. He has implemented narrative practice in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Israel/Palestine. He is also the author of The Presidential Plot, a book on how stories shape American political and cultural life.


Dr. Rick Seltzer, Professor of Political Science, Howard University
Dr. Rick Seltzer has more than 30 years of experience researching, writing, and teaching about political science, including a focus on polarization and partisanship. He is the co-author of Polarization and the Presidency: From FDR to Barack Obama, which was selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Book for 2015.

Joe Weston, Founder and Educator, Respectful ConfrontationJoeW Headshot              Joe Weston is an international workshop facilitator, author, consultant, personal life coach, creative social activist, and advocate for peace. Through his workshops and his book, Mastering Respectful Confrontation, he builds the skills of individuals and organizations to constructively address conflict and disagreements through mindfulness and empowerment. He is currently adjunct professor at the Georgetown University School of Government, Department of Conflict Resolution, teaching a course on body-based skill building for navigating stress and confrontation. Joe works with women’s rights and humanitarian organizations in the Middle East, focusing on empowerment and leadership, reframing power/masculinity, and overcoming gender-based violence. He has also worked with veterans’ organizations to support returning and wounded veterans in their process of integration and healing, and has also volunteered for the Liberation Prison Project, teaching meditation and leadership to inmates.

The event will include presentations by the speakers, a moderated discussion, and audience Q&A.

Thanks to our co-sponsors:

Indivisible Montgomery

Do the Most Good MoCo