2020 brought a difficult year for many of us. And 2021 does not seem to be off to an optimistic start so far. The responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the political divisiveness, Black Lives Matter protests, and the capitol breach have led to conversations containing intense feelings. People have ranged from refusing to talk about difficult topics to loud arguments in homes. Memes and short, often quick and thoughtless, commentaries being shared on social media may distort or narrow viewpoints. Too often, friendships and family ties break without a chance for acknowledging the common ground or the humanity of individual experiences.
How do we create communities that treasures freedom of speech both orally and in print, but also demand responsibility for the quality of the discussions? How do we distinguish between rhetoric, well-developed opinions, and scientific knowledge? How do we develop thought and criticality when reading media, social media, or books? What are some of the ways we can listen to the voices around us as well as our own lenses and inner voices? And how can we pause and reflect on our individual and collective presence as Americans?