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Journalist Mónica Guzmán

Healing Conversations Across Dangerous Divides

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Is it possible to find common ground with anyone? A liberal daughter of a conservative family shares her story.

Journalist Mónica Guzmán is the loving liberal daughter of Mexican immigrants who strongly support Donald Trump. We hear her personal story of how Mónica set out to understand what divides America and discovered ways to overcome divisions that hurt our relationships and society.

In this episode of “Let’s Find Common Ground,” we discuss ways to use our own sense of curiosity to have cross-partisan conversations with colleagues, friends, and family.

Mónica Guzmán is the author of the new book I Never Thought Of It That Way. She serves as an advisor to the depolarization organization, Braver Angels. Our interview shows listeners how to cross boundaries and find common ground with anyone.

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Ep 54 – Healing Conversations Across Dangerous Divides

Mónica Guzmán

Mónica Guzmán is Director of Digital and Storytelling at Braver Angels, a nonprofit working to depolarize America; host of the Crosscut interview series Northwest Newsmakers; and author of I Never Thought Of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times.

She was a 2019 fellow at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, where she studied social and political division, and a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, where she studied how journalists can better meet the needs of a participatory public.

Before committing to the project of helping people understand each other across the political divide, Mónica cofounded the award-winning Seattle newsletter The Evergrey and led a national network of groundbreaking local newsletters as VP of Local for WhereBy.Us.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

How Problem Solvers Caucus Attacks Gridlock in Congress

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Is Congress as dysfunctional as it seems? Hear from two legislators in this candid conversation.

From the outside, Congress appears broken. Bills get bogged down in partisan fights, leaders openly smear each other, and animosity between members is at an all-time high. But our guests on today’s show demonstrate that if you look a little closer, you’ll find a group of dedicated politicians working together across the aisle to craft workable legislation and get things done.

Republican Congressman Don Bacon represents Nebraska’s 2nd District. Democrat Kurt Schrader represents Oregon’s 5th District. Each man is a member of the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, a group equally split between Democrats and Republicans who are committed to finding common ground on key issues facing the U.S.

In this surprisingly candid conversation listeners get a peek behind the curtain at what’s really going on in Congress, how the infrastructure bill was passed into law, and the harmful effect the media has on Americans’ view of politics. On this episode of “Let’s Find Common Ground.”

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Ep 49 – How Problem Solvers Caucus Attacks Gridlock in Congress

Don Bacon

Growing up and working on a farm in Illinois, Congressman Don Bacon learned first-hand how the value of hard work and commitment contributes to the success of a small business. He moved from the family farm to attend Northern Illinois University, from which he graduated with a Bachelors of Political Science in 1984, the same year he married Angie, the love of his life. They have three sons, one daughter, and six grandchildren. One year later, he began his military career by joining the U.S. Air Force and serving nearly 30 years, ultimately retiring as a Brigadier General.

During his career in the Air Force, Congressman Bacon specialized in electronic warfare, intelligence, and reconnaissance. His career highlights include two tours as a Wing Commander, at Ramstein Airbase in Germany and Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska; group command at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona; squadron command in Arizona, and expeditionary squadron command in Iraq. In total, Rep. Bacon served 16 assignments including four deployments in the Middle East to include Iraq in 2007 to 2008 during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

Congressman Bacon’s military decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, two Bronze Stars, two Legion of Merits, five Meritorious Service Medals, and the Aerial Achievement Medal. Additionally, he was selected as Europe’s top Air Force Wing Commander for his time at Ramstein Airbase, as well as recognized as a distinguished graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, Navigator-Electronic Warfare School, and Officer Intelligence School. Further, Congressman Bacon has earned two Masters Degrees, from the University of Phoenix in Arizona and the National War College in Washington D.C.

Upon his retirement from the Air Force in 2014, Congressman Bacon served as the military advisor to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), where he specialized in military affairs focusing on Offutt Air Force Base and the Nebraska National Guard. He also was an Assistant Professor at Bellevue University where he taught Undergraduate Leadership along with American Vision and Values (The Kirkpatrick Signature Series), until his 2016 election to Congress, representing Nebraska’s Second Congressional District.

Presently, Congressman Bacon serves on two committees within the House of Representatives: the House Armed Services Committee, and the House Agricultural Committee.

Kurt Schrader

Congressman Kurt Schrader is currently serving his seventh term in the United States House of Representatives. He represents Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all of Marion, Polk, Lincoln and Tillamook Counties as well as the bulk of Clackamas and small portions of Multnomah and Benton Counties. Before being elected to Congress, Schrader, a farmer and veterinarian for more than thirty years, established and managed the Clackamas County Veterinary Clinic in Oregon City and operated his farm where he grew and sold organic fruit and vegetables.

In 1996, Congressman Schrader was elected to the Oregon State House of Representatives. There he served as a member of the Joint Ways & Means Committee. Schrader was one of five legislators asked by their peers to guide Oregon through the budget crisis of 2001-2002. Schrader was elected to the Oregon State Senate in 2003 and was immediately appointed to chair the Joint Ways & Means Committee. He continued to serve in that capacity until he was elected to U.S. Congress in 2008.

Congressman Schrader attended Cornell University where he received his BA in Government in 1973. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Illinois in 1977.

Congressman Schrader currently serves as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C), which oversees a wide portfolio of issues ranging from health care to the environment. Prior to joining E&C, Congressman Schrader served on the House Committee on Agriculture, where he served on the Farm Bill Conference Committee that successfully passed a five-year farm bill, the House Committee on Small Business and House Budget Committee. In the 117th Congress, Congressman Schrader serves on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, the Subcommittee on Energy, and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Schrader is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, New Democrat Coalition, and the only bipartisan working group in the House, the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

To stop coronavirus, we must set aside partisanship. Here’s how we can do it.

This USA Today piece by CGC Co-Founders Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen calls for citizens and politicians to stop using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to push partisan politics and cites cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians as an example we can follow. Three of the Common Grounder Attributes are used to show how we can put our differences aside.


– This article was published in USA TODAY on March 20, 2020.

‘It’s a 50-50 nation’: Chris Wallace on Fox News, Trump and America’s great divide

This article from The Guardian explores Chris Wallace’s thoughts on bias in the media and the role of journalists, quoting comments he made as a panelist at our Finding Common Ground on Facts, Fake News & The Media forum at Columbia University on February 25th, 2020.


– This article was published in The Guardian on March 7th, 2020.

Chris Wallace ‘horrified’ by CNN’s Acosta’s conduct: ‘It’s not our job to one-up presidents’

This article from The Hill focuses on panelist Chris Wallace’s comments about Jim Acosta of CNN, quoting him as saying journalists should not be picking fights with the president. It is mentioned that the comments came from our Finding Common Ground on Facts, Fake News & The Media event on February 25th, 2020 and a link was included to our website.


– This article was published in The Hill on February 26, 2020.

Chris Wallace says Jim Acosta’s behavior ‘adds to people questioning the credibility of the media’

In this article from the Washington Examiner, they focus on Chris’s comments about Jim Acosta of CNN and quotes him as saying journalists should not be picking fights with the president. It is mentioned that the comments came from our Finding Common Ground Facts, Fake News & The Media event on February 25th, 2020 and a link was included to our website


— This article was published in the Washington Examiner on February 25, 2020.

Chris Wallace Says He’s “Horrified” by Jim Acosta’s Press Conference Behavior

In this article from the Hollywood Reporter, they focus on Chris’s comments about Jim Acosta of CNN and quotes him as saying journalists should not be picking fights with the president. It is mentioned that the comments came from our Finding Common Ground Facts, Fake News & The Media event on February 25th, 2020 and a link was included to our website


— This article was published in the Hollywood Reporter on February 25, 2020.

Engaging in tough conversations is worth it. Even if we can’t find agreement.

In this opinion piece Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen co-founders of Common Ground Committee argued that the point of common ground is not to force an agreement on issues – it’s to foster conversations that lead to greater understanding.

They also position CGC as one of many members of the common grounder movement, and a link to the 10 attributes of a common grounder is included.


— This article was published in USA Today on January 23, 2020.

Finding common ground isn’t about ‘being nice’ or losing values. It’s about understanding.

Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen co-founders of Common Ground Committee wrote a letter is in response to the new poll numbers from the Hidden Common Ground initiative.

They write that common ground can be found between Democrats and Republicans but, in order for that to happen, we have to dispel the myth that finding common ground is somehow compromising your values.

The letter also includes mention of the 10 common grounder initiatives and includes a link


As co-founders of an organization focused on the state of our political discourse, we are not surprised by the results of the newly-released USA TODAY/Public Agenda/Ipsos poll published in “America is dangerously divided. USA TODAY and partners launch ‘Hidden Common Ground’ to find solutions.” Common ground can certainly be found between Republicans and Democrats — but first, we need to dispel a common myth.

One of the most consistent critiques we hear is that finding common ground means “being nice” at the expense of one’s values. The real point of common ground is not to force-feed agreement on a particular issue — it’s about a conversation that leads to understanding each other.

Before Thanksgiving, we released the 10 attributes of what we call common grounders. One of those attributes is to listen and learn from personal experiences. This is the essence of the common ground movement. When we brought Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Susan Rice on stage for an event recently, the audience was inspired by just how much they found agreement despite their different backgrounds.

–This article was published in USA Today on December 13, 2019.

Common ground in politics is possible. It just needs coverage.

Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen co-founders of Common Ground Committee seek to promote productive public discourse in this op-ed discussing the big picture of politics and civility in our events. 

Turn on any cable news channel and you’ll likely hear talk about the divisiveness of our politics, and there are numbers to back that up. Only 38 percent of Americans say the United States is heading in the right direction, and an annual poll tracking discourse shows 93 percent say America has a civility problem. As discouraging as these numbers seem, the tide may be turning.

A recent poll from Georgetown University found that 85 percent of voters want finding common ground to be a main goal of politicians. A survey from Hidden Tribes of America found that 77 percent of Americans believe that the differences between us are not so big that they cannot be bridged.

As the co-founders of Common Ground Committee, we’ve repeatedly seen this shift first-hand. Whether it’s at one of our forums with political leaders or in conversations with family, friends and colleagues, we’ve found that people actually agree on more than they realize. They just have to engage in the conversation. What’s more, people will often share experiences of seeking and finding common ground with those who hold different political beliefs.

Unfortunately, we rarely get the chance to witness agreement between political leaders from different parties. The media portrays politicians as constant adversaries rather than collaborators. This representation has consequences: Research suggests that negative feelings toward the opposite party’s leadership are much stronger than those directed at individuals.

That’s why it’s important to show the country that leaders from the two parties can agree — and not just on “little stuff.” When that happens, you can instantly see people light up. When we held a public forum earlier this year at the University of Notre Dame, the campus was abuzz after seeing former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice find consensus on a wide range of issues. Students walked in prepared to see them search for grains of agreement, but instead saw consistent agreement on issues including North Korea, climate change and Middle East policy. Following the event, students told us they would have assumed the Democrat Kerry and the Republican Rice were from the same political party if they hadn’t known better.

At a striking point in the forum, Rice provided an in-depth explanation of her views on immigration policy. Kerry had a two-word response: “I agree.”

Mainstream media rarely represents this aspect of our political leaders’ lives: the vast areas of agreement, compromise, and collaboration that go into productive governing.

We recognize that healthy debate is necessary for democracy; Kerry and Rice certainly didn’t agree on everything. Their perspectives differed sharply when the conversation turned to what to do about voter suppression. Still, the respect and rapport they had established earlier remained firmly intact and they kept their disagreement focused on the issues, not each other.

There’s very little of this type of collegiality found in discussions that focus on rapid-fire debates, and this colors the way citizens view politics.

The more we see political leaders engaging civilly and empathetically with ideologies different from their own, the more the American people will be inspired to do the same. Earlier this year, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, In., participated in a town hall on Fox News, even though the Democratic presidential candidate knew he was communicating his policy stances not to a partisan base, but to an audience of over 2.5 million assumed to be completely antithetical to his approach. Former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona started a series for CBS highlighting areas of political unity for Democrats and Republicans. What this signals: Viewers from both sides of the aisle want to see more than polarization from their news sources.

When we get lost in the rhetoric of polarization, we forget that we’re all on the same team. We’re all Americans. While we have different ideologies and beliefs that should not be compromised, there is more that brings us together than drives us apart. The more those points of common ground are found by leaders — and highlighted in the media — the better chance we have to heal the anger and polarization that weaken our nation.

— This article was published in The Fulcrum on October 24, 2019