An all-star documentary cast discusses how Americans can come together in a time of strife

Common Ground Committee, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering more progress and less division in politics, partnered with Bridge Alliance to host a discussion of the thought-provoking documentary Stars and Strife: A Film of Empathy and Hope. This virtual event featured some of today’s leading movers and thinkers, from former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and business leader Katherine Gehl to economist David Smick and activist Hawk Newsome. In the midst of an epidemic of incivility and polarization, this thoughtful and authentic conversation offers inspiration to come together. 

Read the Event Transcript

Stars & Strife Documentary Discussion

Featured Speakers

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta served as White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, and as Secretary of Defense under President Barack Obama. As Director of the CIA, also under President Obama, he oversaw the operation that bought down international terrorist Osama bin Laden. Mr. Panetta also served as an eight-term member of Congress, representing California’s 16th and 17th districts. He is co-founder of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, dedicated to preparing people for lives of public service and educating them on the democratic process.

Katherine Gehl

Katherine M. Gehl is a business leader, author, speaker and political innovator. The former President and CEO of Gehl Foods, Inc., she has served across a range of public and private industries, from investment and tech firms to government and education. In 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Ms. Gehl is the co-author of The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy.

Hawk Newsome

Hawk Newsome is a former candidate for New York City Council, a cast member on Cop Watch America on BET, and a political activist working at the forefront of the New Civil Rights Movement who has dedicated his adult life to the betterment of his community and our nation as a whole. Mr. Newsome previously served as Special Projects Coordinator at the Bronx County Office of the District Attorney, partnering with tenants’ associations and social service organizations throughout the Bronx. He is co-founder and Chairperson of Black Lives Matter Greater New York.

David Smick

David Smick, the writer and director of Stars and Strife, is a global macroeconomic strategist, investor and magazine editor. He is also the two-time New York Times best-selling author of The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy and The Great Equalizer: How Main Street Capitalism Can Create an Economy for Everyone. Mr. Smick has written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He has appeared as a television commentator on CNN, Fox, CNBC, Charlie Rose, and PBS.

David Brooks

David Brooks is chair of Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC, a project aimed at bridging the differences that divide Americans and seeking out a compelling common ground. He is a New York Times columnist, a commentator on NPR and PBS Newshour, and the author of five books, including The Road to Character and The Second Mountain. A noted political and cultural commentator, Mr. Brooks has also worked for the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly.

Presented by

Common Ground Committee

Common Ground Committee (CGC) ( is a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization that inspires action on polarizing issues by bringing prominent leaders with opposing views together in public forums to find common ground. Since its founding in 2009, CGC has held 14 forums featuring panelists who have reached over 200 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notables as David Petraeus, Susan Rice, John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, Donna Brazile and Larry Kudlow, exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to foreign policy. CGC is also responsible for the “Let’s Find Common Ground” podcast and the Common Ground Scorecard, which scores politicians and candidates for public office on their likelihood to find common ground with the opposite party. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.

Bridge Alliance

The Bridge Alliance is a coalition of ~100 organizations working together as active stewards of our democratic republic. Bridge Alliance member organizations span the ideological spectrum, but are unified to work efficiently, outside arbitrarily defined political lines. The Bridge Alliance nurtures consistent and open communications between its members to support the democracy ecosystem. Together, members promote civility, transparency, effective governance, civic engagement and a country-before-party mindset – all the elements necessary for healthy self-governance in the democratic republic that is the United States. Learn more.