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More Musings from Michael Ostrolenk on the Conference

On October 17th, Michael Ostrolenk, one of the speakers in Saturday’s conservatives panel, posted the following to the Transpartisan Alliance website about his experiences at the conference (see the original post here)…

Conservatives and Dialogue

by Michael Ostrolenk

Thanks to Sandy Heierbacher, Director of the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), I was invited to the October 2008 NCDD Annual Conference in Austin Texas to participate on a panel entitled “Walking Our Talk: What Our Field Can Learn From Conservatives.”  I joined Grover Norquist (President of Americans for Tax Reform), Pete Peterson (Executive Director of Common Sense California) and Joseph McCormick (Director, Transpartisan Alliance) We spoke about conservatism, conservatives and the various reasons why conservatives may be hesitant to participate in dialogues.  I spoke about various philosophical, psychological, political and social issues related to the topic at hand.  It was a good dialogue and expertly moderated by Dave Joseph (Program Director, Public Conversations Project.)   According to the feedback I got and was told to me via others, our panel was a hit, educational and thanks to Grover entertaining and very useful to grist for the dialogue mill.

I know Grover from various center-right activities in DC and Joseph who I worked with at Reuniting America for a few years but got a chance to get to know Pete and Dave while at the conference.   Pete is a communitarian conservative, which I find to be interesting and I will need to learn more about his orientation.   From what I gathered in our brief conversations and the panel itself, I probable would not have too much disagreement with him except for the greater role he would seem to allow for the state in community life.   I have a communitarian streak as long as it voluntary and does not subsume the individual.    It was fun to engage in a conversation prior to the panel with Dave and learn that he is also a marriage and family therapist.  I look forward to learning more about his work as well.  Through Dave, I met Theo Brown, who is a Senior Associate of America Speaks.  He is based in DC, so it will be easy to learn more about his work in the near future.

I wish I had attended more workshops but a lot of my time was spent in conversations with attendees from the conference.  One workshop I did attend was entitled “ Attracting Conservative Citizens to Dialogue Events: Liberal- Conservative Campus Dialogue  & Mormon-Evangelical Interfaith Initiatives.” With Jacob Hess (Ph.D. candidate) and Rev. Greg Johnson, Director of Standing Together.    Rev. Johnson and Jacob did a very good job at presenting their ideas and experiences around interfaith and inter-political dialogues.    Jacob, although young, is a wise and I would imagine going places in this field.  He was impressive.   I was hoping to spend some time during the conference speaking with the Rev more about his work but that did not happen this time.

Another blog on the workshop can be found at Tim Erickson’s Politalk .

I did get to spend a good amount of time speaking with Martin Rutte, who is President of Livelihood and Chair of the Board for St. Mary’s University Centre for Spirituality and the Workplace.   They were lively discussions around politics, Ron Paul, shallow vs. structural changes,integral theory and his corporate dialogue work.

Others also joined those conversations but I don’t have cards and only remember first names.  A shout out to Steve Zikman, an environmental attorney and mediator who is taking his Masters of Law in Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University’s Straus Institute. (He and Martin adopted me which I appreciate  🙂  ) We had an interesting discussion on constitutional law as well as his dialogue program at Fielding.

Speaking of integral theory, one of the questions asked during our panel was about Spiral Dynamics. About 1/3 of the people there were familiar with SD.  That’s a good sign.

I also met Ruth Broyde Sharone whose is the director of a prize-winning film entitled “God and Allah Need to Talk.”   I was invited to see her film showing but unfortunately missed it due to another meeting.

After my panel, a lot of my discussions were about the politics of the presidential race.  I had a very good conversation with Leanne Valenti, Deputy Campus Director, Citizen Schools at Bedichek Middle School. She runs a interesting program that brings adult volunteers into government schools to educate the students on various topics and issues after the regular school day ends.   She is also involved in the organic food movement and  told me about the Urban Roots project which combines sustainable agriculture with youth development.  I think that type of work is so important.  That conversation led us to discuss industrial food and its effect on biological and environmental health.

I also got to spend some time with  Jeff Weissglass who I work with at the Transpartisan Center and Iwanka Kultschychyj who I discussed the socratic method of teaching and deconstructing worldviews and psychological defense structures  Over-all it was a very good conference and I am glad to have been invited to speak.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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