It is Tuesday evening in a sleepy southern town. The temperature hangs well above 90 degrees as stagnant, muggy air encircles you like the stale American political environment.
Yet people drove from 50 miles away to be packed into this tiny old house. They are elbow to elbow and hoping for a cool breeze to enter through nearby windows as the whirl of electric fans struggle in vain to cool the room down.
They are Republicans and Democrats, Evangelicals and Agnostics, rich and poor, millennial and boomer and they all gathered to witness the miracle.
It begins with a simple introduction, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Listen First Project.”
For the next three hours, people discuss a series of broad topics.
A panel of varying ages, backgrounds and personal and experiences take questions from the moderator about climate change, abortion, the national economy, immigration, radical Islam, domestic terror, gun rights, President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; they are all fair game for the evening’s discussion.
But, the miracle happens when everyone listens.
There is no shouting, no shoving, no threats. Yet, passion is encouraged and respect demanded throughout the evening.
The Environment is Ripe for Reasoning
For many people at this gathering, non-stop protests and Facebook anger have led them to political burnout in a rancorous political environment.
Americans are tired of endless protests, theatrical violence, and fatigued by anti-American news from traditional sources. But, here the ugliness of shouting and shoving give way to common decency when respect is laid upon the table before political ideology.
These panelists speak from the heart about their experiences grappling with the social and political challenges facing America.
Political talking points become reality when people speak from their heart about their values and experiences.
TV sound bites don’t work here.
On this panel are men who have experienced war, women who know intimate details about friends with abortions, church leaders who lead their flock through crisis; the list goes on.
An Idea Becomes a Passion, The Changing Political Environment
Long before there was Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, or ANTIFA protestors, this project began.
The original concept comes from Pearce Godwin, a Christian Missionary who was in Africa when the idea struck.
In July of 2013 while traveling from Uganda to Kenya, Godwin sat down to write a letter on his thoughts about the state of discourse and the political environment in America.
He mailed that letter to newspapers back in America. He had no idea it would be so successful.
Since that first publishing, it has gone viral many times being featured in the Miami Herald and dozens of other news agencies across the nation.
“I personally have strong moral convictions on a host of issues, but what we should not and cannot do if we hope for a healthy, prosperous nation is demagogue our neighbors because they see the world differently, suggesting that not only their opinion but they themselves are somehow less. Such behavior is immature, anti-social and un-American,” wrote Godwin in his 2013 letter.
Today Godwin’s dream project is evolving into reality.
What was witnessed tonight on Thompson Street in Pittsboro, NC can only be described as inspirational if not moving and deeply personal.
Some millennials, like Godwin, believe they can add value to the state of policy and the political environment in America.
“We should place less effort on demagoguery and put more energy on solving problems,” says Godwin. “That can only start though a conversation and respect for each other.”
Although this event was organized by members of the Republican Party of Chatham County through personal donations from its members, it is a project that can be done by any organization, of any political party, ethnic background or origin that is willing to listen first and put the time into planning for a good turn out.
But the organization can’t run on a miracle, it runs on the generosity of others.
“We appreciate any possible donations,” said Godwin. “There is a lot of demand in today’s environment for a responsible conversation that leads to progress.”
The national organization is run by some of the most bright and dedicated people in America.
Wise Men Listen
A wise person once said, “you were born with two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”
Mr. Godwin and his team are working their hardest to change the course of dialogue in America. For more information on the Listen First Project, please follow this link.
Listen First is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(C)3 organization which receives charitable tax-deductible donations to fund its operations.