On Saturday, over 3300 people gathered in 19 locations to discuss the state of the United States' economy and what they thought Congress needed to do about long-term debt. I had the honor to serve as a table facilitator at this event. What an inspiring day! The day was long--seven hours. It was a beautiful Saturday in June. The topic was difficult. Yet the people gathered in Chicago (I assume the same for the rest of the sites ) did a remarkable job of engaging in thoughtful conversation about a difficult issue.
The people at my table came from different backgrounds, races, and ages. They all came in not sure of what the day might hold and some were outright cynical about the process. There were different positions, some held quite strongly by the participants. Not surprisingly, one Gen-X man had a different view about social security than the baby boomers at the table. We all got a chuckle out of that one. There were different ideas about the extent to which the government should support the less fortunate. This conversation had the potential to turn into a confrontation as one participant started to point fingers at particular people, but cooler heads prevailed as others in the group were quick to point to the ground rules.
At the end of the day, all of the participants at my table felt it was a worthwhile experience and that they were glad they came. They all learned something, most importantly, that even though they did not always share positions, they did share important values. All felt that those less fortunate deserved support, that those better off needed to share more of the burden. All felt that Congress did not represent their values; that special interests and money ruled the day.
It was a great day for democracy.
Go to AmericaSpeaks if you are interested in following up on this exciting event. Top leadership from America Speaks will be presenting this work to Congressional leaders and the President's Commission on the Budget.