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Candidates Nationwide Commit to #ListenFirst to Understand; Comment on #ListenFirstFriday (Press Release)

Candidates NationwideIncluding Duetting Opponents in Vermont—Commit to #ListenFirst to Understand. Also Comment on #ListenFirstFriday.

Listen First Project Recognizes Cultural Influencers Who Join the #ListenFirst Movement as #ListenFirst Leaders. Dozens of Federal, State, and Local Candidates—Republican, Democrat, and Independent—Have Stepped Up to Help Mend the Frayed Fabric of America. 4 Days Before Election, Statements Support #ListenFirstFriday. 

As Election Day approaches, many political candidates—including two opponents for Vermont State House who recently made national headlines singing a duet—have joined the #ListenFirst movement alongside other cultural influencers by committing to “Listen First to understand,” earning recognition as #ListenFirst Leaders. While welcoming all candidates to join thousands of others in the growing #ListenFirst movement, Listen First Project and National Conversation Projectthe shared movement platformare strictly nonpartisan and do not endorse or campaign for any individual candidate or issue.

"Cultural influencers, especially those seeking elected office, have a special opportunity to lead in turning the tide of rising rancor and deepening division in America. We are experiencing a dark moment as a societypolitical opponents targeted with bombs, Americans slaughtered in a place of worship, people gunned down in a grocery store due to the color of their skin, all amidst another socially polarized election," said Pearce Godwin, Founder of Listen First Project and Executive Director of National Conversation Project.

"The words and actions of our civic and cultural leaders play a role in shaping attitudes, speech, and behavior among society at large," adds Godwin. "We appreciate those leaders who have made a commitment to engage with fellow Americans as human beings worth understanding rather than as enemies with bad intentions or threats to be destroyed. Their example inspires others to move from a corrosive mindset of 'us vs. them' toward 'me and you.' Revitalizing America and finally achieving its promise as 'indivisible, with liberty and justice for all' will require all of us, together."

#ListenFirst Leaders in final days of campaigns offer comments for #ListenFirstFriday

Zac Mayo & Lucy Rogers—candidates for Vermont State House who sang a duet following debate: Zac said, "I was honored to be recognized as a #ListenFirst Leader, along with my opponent. I believe strongly in mending the wounds of division and de-escalating the hyper-partisan culture we live in. The fire and fury of today doesn't lead to solutions, but instead breeds distrust and a further breakdown of our culture. My belief has always been that all voices need to be heard, regardless of which side of the aisle you are on." Lucy added, "I'm proud to have been recognized by the Listen First Project as a leader who pledges that 'I will listen first to understand.'"

Nick Thomas—Congressional candidate in CO-2: "People across the spectrum recognize that we're facing a cultural and political crisis. Surveys report that most of us see fewer things that bind Americans together today and have few or no friends from the other side. Experts warn of a 'soft civil war.' The current trend of vilifying people rather than honestly discussing positions is a disaster for our society and governance. I'm proud to champion and practice #ListenFirst. Listening first to understand others, especially those with whom we disagree, is the only way we move forward together and address the greatest issues of our time."

Cooper Nye—Congressional candidate in MI-11: "Make no mistake: Tribalism is unraveling the fabric of our free society. I signed the #ListenFirst pledge because America's greatness and our shared prosperity demand we listen first to understand one another and bridge divides now—not later."

Joe Pinion—Candidate for New York State Assembly: "We are the most connected society in the history of the world, and yet today we find ourselves more divided than ever before. In these times of great uncertainty and community upheaval, it is more important than ever to remain committed to the eternal moral quest for common ground and common purpose. I’m proud to stand with #ListenFirst and all those committed to the work required to help resolve our differences."

Ryan Watts—Congressional candidate in NC-6: "I’ve committed myself to listening to the people throughout the campaign. Our future is dependent on #ListenFirst Leaders willing to set aside party affiliation to truly represent the people."

Frank Ward—Candidate for Austin, TX City Council: "Many Americans are currently questioning whether we are and can still be a nation of the highest ideals. The #ListenFirst movement is a direct response to the frustration many are feeling about our frayed public discourse. It is a particularly American sensibility to endlessly pursue common ground. We can and must do just that. Listening first in our public discourse should be the standard, not the exception. Both the beautiful idea and reality of America continue to march on because we have always striven to appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature.’ There’s no time like the present to get back out there and engage with voters and neighbors of all political stripes and perspectives. Imagine what we could all learn if we simply listened first.”

Emmanuel Wilder—Candidate for North Carolina House: "Being a #ListenFirst leader is a responsibility. We have real problems in our society and if we are going to solve any of them, we are going to have to understand one another. That starts by listening, having a truly honest dialogue about where we are, how did we get here, and where we want to go. By encouraging others to listen first, we can bring a generational change to our society."

Karen McCormick—Congressional candidate in CO-4: "I'm running to restore government that's of, by, and for the people again. That requires listening first to the people—showing up to gain greater understanding of the issues we face. That's why it's always been my priority to build a close relationship with the people of our district."

Jamie Schoolcraft—Congressional candidate in MO-7: "A true representative should be the voice of the people, which requires listening first to them."

Former Presidents Bush and Obama have also spoken to the problem and solution. President George W. Bush has decried, “discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” observing that “argument turns too easily to animosity; disagreement escalates into dehumanization.” In opening his Foundation Summit, President Barack Obama said, “Why don't we practice what we preach and listen first.”

Other cultural influencers championing #ListenFirst include former party chairs (Donna Brazile & Michael Steele), journalists (Bret Baier), athletes (Dominique Wilkins), business leaders (Stephen M.R. Covey), activists (Susan Bro & Christian Picciolini), musicians (Peter Yarrow), mayors (Robyn Tannehill), superintendents (Dr. Catherine Edmonds), doctors (Dr. Brian Williams & Dr. Mark Goulston), and religious leaders (F. Willis Johnson & Cissie Graham Lynch).

What is National Conversation Project & #ListenFirstFriday?

There is growing, even violent, division in communities across America. The problem is that we increasingly don't just disagree with one another. We dislike, distrust, even despise those who see the world differently. We’re withdrawing from conversations—eroding relationships and understanding—fraying our social fabric. 75% of Americans say this problem has reached a crisis level. Experts say the solution is to cultivate more positive social connections. Thankfully, 75% of Americans are willing to practice conversations across divides, and 36%—more than 100 million people—want to see a national campaign to that end. National Conversation Project—powered by 150+ organizations—is the platform for that movement.

National Conversation Project seeks to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time. We promote National Weeks of Conversation, #ListenFirst Fridays, and any conversation inviting people of all stripes to revitalize America together. NCP aggregates, aligns, and amplifies the efforts of more than 150 hosting partners to mainstream conversations in which we #ListenFirst to understand. www.nationalconversationproject.org #ListenFirst

Every Friday, National Conversation Project elevates the #ListenFirst spirit and practice, encouraging all to be extra intentional about positively connecting with folks they encounter on #ListenFirstFriday. Friday is a great day to foster new connections, share stories of conversations earlier in the week, and consider opportunities to #ListenFirst over the upcoming weekend. Please share thoughts, pictures, and video using #ListenFirstFriday, encouraging all of us to #ListenFirst to understand.


Weber Shandwick, Civility in America VII: The State of Civility

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion