Braver Conversations

Check out Braver Conversations, the new regular column written by members of the Braver Angels Alliance of East-Central Illinois for the News-Gazette in Champaign, IL. 

Braver Angels on "Penny for Your Thoughts" Call-In Radio Show

May 10, 2024

Former East-Central Illinois Alliance Co-Chair Jim Mayer and State Coordinator Matt Hausman were guests on "Penny for Your Thoughts" on May 10.  

"Penny for Your Thoughts" is a call-in radio program that airs in the Champaign area on WDWS and is hosted by Brian Barnhart.

Jim and Matt discussed the concept of Braver Angels, recent events in East-Central Illinois, and answered questions from Brian and callers.  The responses from callers were universally positive.  They loved hearing that an organization like Braver Angels is working to bridge the partisan divide and restore civility to our politics.

This will hopefully be the first of many collaborations with the program.  Brian and his team would like Braver Angels to return and discuss specific issues, so that listeners can hear the Braver Angels Way in action.  Stay tuned!

You can listen to the recording of the program by clicking here.

Chicagoland Alliance Hosts "Dinner and a Fight Dialogue"

May 4, 2024

On May 4th, a combination of 38 reds, blues, and those in between gathered to share a delicious dinner, followed by an engrossing debate.

Attendees caught up with friends, and made new ones, over pasta and salad. Then the statement for debate was unveiled: It is best if gender identity topics are avoided in the classroom.

The debate began with five volunteers who filled five chairs labeled Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree. For a set amount of time, those five volunteers voiced their opinions and were able to ask one another questions. Then debate was opened up to the entire room.

Moderated by the skilled Svetlana Bekman, participants voiced their concerns across the political spectrum. Respectful dialogue ensued. Members shared personal experiences, news stories, and heartfelt concerns. Penetrating questions were asked. Through it all, the air was charged with active listening.

As the program wrapped up, reds and blues lingered, chatting, shaking hands, and thanking each other for their perspectives.

You can learn more about the Dinner and a Fight Dialogue concept by clicking here.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next program to join!

Braver Angels at Chicago Conferences

April, 2024

Braver Angels was well represented at two conferences in Chicago, IL in the month of April.

On April 4-7, Braver Angels had a table at the Midwest Political Science Association conference.  It was not only Illinois Braver Angels,  we had Braver Angels from Wisconsin and Indiana come and help with the table.  We met with students, facutly, and many others in the political science field from all over the country.

On April 10-12, a group of Braver Angels attended the Bridging the Divide Conference hosted by the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.  The focus on the conference was the urban-rural divide, an important theme right here in Illinois. The Braver Angels team listened to great speakers and breakout sessions, and made some great connections with leaders trying to Bridge the Divide.  Recordings of the panel discussions can be viewed here.

Partnering for Dialogue About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The temperature was six below zero, so Braver Angels organizers were astonished to see 90 attendees arrive at Glenview Community Church in January for The Way of Peace: An Israeli & Palestinian Dialogue.

The highly-motivated audience – some of them members of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives or travelers in socially-conscious tours to the region - heard personal accounts by Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah and Israeli Kim Passy Yoseph about how they’ve experienced the October 7th attack in Israel and the aftermath in Gaza.

The evening brought together supporters of three organizations that promote dialogue as a peaceful way forward across differences.

Our co-sponsors were Braver Angels Network partner MEJDI Tours, an international travel group, and Glenview-based Hands of Peace, organized to empower American, Israeli and Palestinian youth to become agents of change.

Participants heard the sad reminder that 19-year-old peace activist Naama Levy, an alumna of Hands of Peace Summer Program in 2022, was taken hostage by Hamas on 10/7. She remains in Gaza as of this writing.

Sarah, born in East Jerusalem, founded MEJDI Tours with a Jewish friend from Skokie to create dual-dialogue travel tours in regions of conflict. Sarah was interviewed on a Braver Angels podcast HERE . Yoseph, a resident of Tel Aviv, is operations director for MEJDI Tours.  

BA-Illinois Research Study

Illinois coordinators were approached in May with an unexpected gift. Concerned by the nation’s polarization, a philanthropic team from the global Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) volunteered their expertise to Braver Angels-Illinois at no charge.


The project is designed to help Braver Angels understand the communities we serve and how to increase involvement in the Braver Angels mission, events, and initiatives.


Months later, we thank those who accepted the QRCA gift by participating in this research. QRCA received about 135 responses to its survey in December. In February, QRCA volunteers conducted 7 focus groups and 14 individual interviews with a total of 38 participants. “We thought everyone was amazing and helpful and interesting,” said Dona Vitale, QRCA project co-chair, “and we thank them all for their cooperation and thoughtful comments.”

The next phase will be analysis of the qualitative data and a reporting schedule to Braver Angels leaders. In the meantime, we are grateful for the team’s generosity, energy, and expertise in conducting this blitz of interviews.

Braver Angels Goes to Community College –

Building Communication Skills for Lifelong Learning

After leading a recent Skills for Bridging the Divide workshop on campus, Laura Piemonte was delighted to read feedback to the question, “What did you find helpful?”

 “Everything,” responded a community college student. “It changed my whole perception and thinking about communicating,” the student added.  

That’s what our Skills Workshop is designed to provide – a different way of looking at conversation that promotes listening, mutual understanding, and connection rather than verbal combat. And that’s what Laura and Pam Hay were seeking when they began approaching community colleges in the Chicago area on behalf of Braver Angels.

Since late last year, they have organized communications workshops and Braver Angels presentations at the College of DuPage, Oakton Community College, and Waubonsee Community College. All three have either asked Braver Angels back or have already enjoyed return visits.

Organizers Piemonte and Hay are reaching out to additional community colleges and would be happy to expand into universities. But they invite help from anyone who can open administrative doors at a school. Introductions to the right professor, Student Life Manager, Continuing Education Manager, Ombudsperson, or administrator can help school officials to understand the benefits of the Braver Angels approach. Contacts can also tip Piemonte and Hay to times when a school may be concerned about internal student divides or are looking for new student programs.

If you are interested in learning more about their approach or introducing them to an Illinois college opportunity, please email them at or

"Discussing Politics With People You Disagree With" on The Middle with Jeremy Hobson

September 28, 2023

There is a new weekly nationwide public radio talk program: The Middle with Jeremy Hobson.  It is based on giving voice to the overlooked geographic and political middle of the country.  

After a successful pilot last fall, they kicked off their first full season on September 28, 2023.  The topic was "Discussing Politics With People You Disagree With" and had as guests: former Illinois governor Jim Edgar, a moderate Republican with a reputation for bipartisanship, and Cynthia Wang, an expert on conflict resolution at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Illinois Braver Angels Red Coordinator, Matt Hausman, was invited on to discuss Braver Angels as part of the conversation.  

You can listen to the full episode on iHeart here. Matt talks about Braver Angels at the 25:23 mark of the epidode.

Braver Angels National Convention in Gettysburg, PA

July 5-8, 2023

Eighteen delegates from across Illinois represented the Land of Lincoln at the Braver Angels National Convention in Gettysburg, PA.  The convention was held July 5-8, just days after the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

You can learn more about what the Illinois delegation did at and took home from the convention by reading the state recap here.

The national campaign for civic renewal, Rise for America, was announced at the convention, including five actions you can take to forward our mission.  Here in Illinois, the action we want to encourage is becoming a trained debate chair, moderator, organizer, and Zoom event manager.  

Constituent Conversations with Sen. Faraci & Rep. Marron

June 28, 2023

Almost 50 people came to Rantoul Township High School on June 28 to take part in the first Braver Politics Constituent Conversation in all of Illinois.  

Two elected state officials, Sen. Paul Faraci (a Democrat) and Rep. Mike Marron (a Republican) heard from their constiuents about their concerns regarding the extreme polarization in our politics and our community, and then the discussion turned to workforce development in northern Champaign and Vermillion Counties.

The event was full of respectful conversation by participants from across the political spectrum.  Following the event, feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many wanting to see similar gatherings across the area in the future.

Here is some local media coverage in the lead up to the event and then post-event.

If you would like to watch some of the action, the raw footage from the entire event is online here.

Skills for Bridging the Divide

June 11, 2023

There can be a lot of stress among people who are divided politically.

People who wanted to connect better with the people in their lives, across political differences, attended to share a catered meal, chat with neighbors, and study communication skills for polarized times. They learned and practiceed having respectful conversations that clarify differences, search for common ground, and affirm the importance of the relationship.

This event helped people to:

Indivisible Rural Illinois

May 4, 2023

After hearing about Braver Angels at our Champaign event, Indivisible Rural Illinois leaders extended a warm invitation to present at their May meeting about lowering the temperature of our political conversations. We highlighted our Being Blue in a Red Environment workshop, in addition to our Being Red in a Blue Environment workshop. (Video of the presentation is HERE.)

Bridging Our Divides: Lunch, Documentary, and Discussion at Eden United Church of Christ in Chicago

April 23, 2023

Attendees were invited to learn about Braver Angels and meet some of Illinois' leaders. They enjoyed a 50-minute documentary about Braver Angels, followed by discussion and a lunch catered by the church. 

The documentary -- Braver Angels: Reuniting America -- shows 8 Democratic-leaning voters and 7 Republican-leaning voters moving through a Braver Angels signature Red/Blue workshop, from initial skepticism to more profound understanding and empathy. Viewers got an inside look at how a Democratic voter went from threatening to cut off relationships with Trump voters to becoming dear friend with one—and how a Republican voter moved from disdaining progressives to taking a co-leadership role with one in a movement that now spans the country.


Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference 

April 13-16

Braver Angels Illinois introduced political scientists and students to Braver Angels, promoted use of our College Debates and Discourse program on campuses, and offered ways to depolarize campuses and the public by getting involved in Braver Angels. 

The conference brought in a few thousand political scientists from coast to coast. Braver Angels volunteers fielded requests for information about training to be B.A. moderators and debate chairs, as well as how to bring B.A.'s College Debate Program to campuses.

Chicago Alliance Meet 'n Greet

March 25, 2023

Roughly 30 people -- both BA members and those interested in BA -- gathered to learn about the new Chicago Alliance. After socializing, Chicago Alliance co-chairs Svetlana Bekman and Brian Padden gave a presentation in which they outlined the formation of BA, its efforts to date, and the array of opportunities for members. It was a wonderful way for current and prospective members to meet in real time and experience the energy behind the depolarization movement.

Braver Angels at College of Dupage 

In Glen Ellyn

Braver Angels moderators completed a Skills for Bridging the Divide workshop with political science students in Professor (and Braver Angel) Maureen Heffern Ponicki’s class. This was the second semester of our involvement at College of DuPage. These workshops are part of a broader Braver Angels’ effort to bring the skills of depolarization to college students.

Building a House United: A Local 

Conversation In the Land of Lincoln

February 15, 2023

Post-Event Happy Hour Featuring East Central Alliance and BA Co-Founder Bill Doherty

To view a video of the town hall, Click HERE.

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA Roughly 200 attendees gathered at a town hall to discuss Building a House United in the campus and community. See the video HERE (panelists begin at 18:36). 

Organized by the BA of East Central Illinois Alliance and sponsored by the University of Illinois Vice Chancellor's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the  featured panelists were Bill Doherty Co-founder of Braver Angels and Professor, Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota Twin Cities; Scott Althaus Director of the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research, Merriam Professor, Department of Political Science; Ken E. Salo Clinical Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning, expertise in global justice centering on South African transition; and Colleen Murphy Director of the Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program, Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law, Professor of Philosophy and of Political Science. Moderators Matt Hausman (BA State Coordinator for Illinois - Red) and Chuck Stone (BA State Coordinator for Illinois - Blue) kept discussion flowing with questions from the audience.

At this campus-community event, attendees were able to ask questions of panelists, sign up to attend upcoming Alliance meetings, and apply to become BA moderators.

The League of Women Voters of Champaign County co-sponsored the event. Two organizers were LWV and B.A. members Sara Kelley and Carol Bosley

The Champaign-Urbana News Gazette also co-sponsored the event. To view guest columns by Colleen Murphy, Matt Hausman and Chuck Stone, click HERE.

Braver Angels Zoom Alliance Lunch

January 14, 2023

Zoom Statewide Alliance

Members of the statewide Zoom Alliance met in person to socialize and discuss all things Braver Angels.

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