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E pluribus unum: Fighting for America

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Listen First Founder Pearce Godwin explores the barriers to listening and how to overcome them

Listen First Project CEO and founder Pearce Godwin joined the National Agenda 2022 speaker series on September 21. He discussed listening to bridge differences with series director Lindsay Hoffman.

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​​Listen First Project's Pearce Godwin joined National Agenda on Sept. 21. During his conversation with series director Lindsay Hoffman, Godwin encouraged Americans to practice conversations across differences. ​

Watch the video. Read the transcript.

NEWARK, Del. — Pearce​ Godwin has seen the divide in America today, and he wants to fix it. “If we're too angry, too afraid to turn down the heat, and find a way forward together, America will fail," said Godwin. “We're at war against ourselves." The University of Delaware welcomed the coalition leader to the National Agenda speaker series on Sept. 21. Godwin joined series director Lindsay Hoffman, Ph.D., on stage at Gore Recital Hall for a talk entitled “The Value of Listening." In-person and virtual audiences joined the conversation.

As the chief executive officer of the Listen First Project, Pearce Godwin is working to reverse extreme partisanship and demonization across differences . Described as a national voice for bridging divides in America, Godwin founded the Listen First Project in 2013. The Listen First Project and its partners have hosted thousands of conversations through the America Talks initiative and the annual National Week of Conversation.

“I know that for many of us, it's hitting close to home, this toxic polarization. The way we demonize each other across differences is causing breakdown, from the dinner table to family vacations, from worship services to workplaces." said Godwin. He emphasized that although Americans have a materially prosperous nation, they suffer from “relational poverty." Social division in America is growing but Listen First is looking to mend it.

The Listen First Project has built a coalition of 500 organizations that bring Americans together across differences — to listen, to understand each other, and to discover common interests. Some organizations focus on dialogue around personal experiences to build relationships, while others deliberate on issues. Some work in local communities, while others engage Americans coast to coast.​

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Listen First Project's Pearce Godwin joined the University of Delaware's National Agenda series on Sept. 21.

​Listen First Project CEO Pearce Godwin said Americans are suffering from "relational poverty." 

The goal is to get Americans to speak to each other, and more importantly, listen to each other. To rebuild trust, Americans must be willing to converse with each other, set aside party lines and be open to hearing new perspectives.

Godwin expressed disappointment with President Joe Biden's efforts to unify the country. In recent tweets, Biden referred to MAGA Republicans as a “threat," remarks that originated from a September 1 speech in Philadelphia on the “Continued Battle for the Soul of the Nation." “I don't see how you heal the soul of the nation by dividing us against each other," said Godwin.

Pearce was interested in Free Intelligent Conversation, a movement the University of Delaware frequently participates in, which encourages meaningful dialogue between strangers. “We're in big trouble. But I'm here to tell you that there is hope. Hope is found in Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs, crossing their lines of difference, to spend a little time together."​​

For information about National Agenda, including links to videos, news stories, and transcripts, visit cpc.udel.edu/nationalagenda​Lindsay Hoffman, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication and political science at UD, directs the series. This year's theme, "Politics by the Numbers," examines how and why the numbers matter, especially during high-stakes elections like the upcoming midterms. National Agenda is free and open to the public. It is made possible with support from the University of Delaware's Office of the Provost and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Article by Gina Cosenza, University of Delaware senior and intern for the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication

Video by University Media Services​​

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