Why talking — and listening — to someone with different political views is good for the nation

This editorial is a consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

It takes a special kind of bravery to enlist in the armed forces, especially during times of war.

But it also takes a special kind of bravery to walk into a room and talk — and listen — to someone whose political beliefs are the opposite of yours. Why? Because it requires an open mind, sometimes painful self-reflection and an abundance of empathy.

CBS “Sunday Morning” recently featured an organization called Braver Angels, whose mission is to work with communities by holding workshops, debates and public presentations aimed at bridging the vast political divide in this country. It brings together conservatives and liberals to get beyond the awful stereotypes and find understanding with one another. It’s important that we think critically about our own biases and listen to others. We’re all in this together, after all.

Chuck Stone, a former newspaper reporter, retired attorney and DePaul University instructor who attended Maine East High School, is one of two volunteer coordinators for the Illinois chapter. He leans blue.

Matt Hausman is an aerospace engineer from Champaign who also works the family farm. He leans red.

The organization takes great pains to ensure its leadership comes from both sides of the aisle equally.

Together they put people from different sides of the spectrum together to learn about the sources of their biases and to see whether they can work together for the betterment of the country.



Stone became involved six years ago after seeing a co-founder of the national organization — then called Better Angels — on national TV.

“As a young lawyer, seeing the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing and the tribalism of our senators really alarmed me, and I began noticing the destructiveness of polarization,” Stone said. “To me, it felt like we were in a car heading for a cliff, and I didn’t want to feel like a passenger.”

Since he began coleading the Illinois chapter in 2018, it has outperformed his expectations. It has had several sessions in the suburbs — workshops and presentations sponsored by the League of Women Voters and libraries. A Skills for Bridging the Divide workshop is planned for the College of DuPage in October. In November, a Geneva church will sponsor a Depolarizing Within workshop.

“The most rewarding thing for me is to see people experiencing joy in meeting people from the other side under a structure that enforces listening,” Stone said. “It is not a question of which side is more responsible. It is about how we do better. That is the difference between apathy and engagement, cynicism and reasoning, despair and hope.”

The more people on either end of the spectrum can get together, the more politicians can appeal to the vast middle ground where most of us live. And that would be of great benefit to all of us.

We encourage you to get involved by logging on to il.braverangels.org.