Speaking Out, The Talking Stick & Citizens Assembled
“The America I want Is…” initiative is about individual expression, collective listening and citizen involvement. It’s an idea as important now as at any time in our country’s history. If you have something to say about your country, now is the time to share it.
We at Linley Foundation (Linley) are offering you a personal platform to express yourself. We want to inspire and support a national conversation. We believe nothing less than the strength and health of our democracy is at stake.
At this moment it seems that as a nation we are barely listening to one another. We feel alienated and divided. We are defining ourselves by our differences and not by what we may hold in common. We are fractured along political, social, economic, racial, and religious lines. The origins of our problems run deep. Our current crisis has been provoked by longstanding and accelerating constitutional and political problems.
Linley’s response to this dynamic moment is to invite a calmer, deeper, and more deliberate national dialogue. We want to foster a period of self-reflection to understand and then debate the competing visions for America. We are not naive about the challenges ahead. It is clear our democracy is in crisis. However we must seize this rare and kinetic moment if we are to build a fresh, revitalized 21st century America.
About the Talking Circle
The model for our initiative originated right here in North America — in the native North American tradition of the Talking Circle. In these circles, members of a tribe congregate to discuss an important issue. A talking stick is passed from member to member. Only the person holding the stick is allowed to speak. There is neither argument nor resistance. There is no crosstalk — just listening. The stick is passed around until every member of the Circle has spoken. The objective is that each individual member understand what other tribal members are thinking. It is listening with the heart.
While respecting the origins of this ancient tradition, Linley has digitized the Talking Circle to scale it up for a national audience. In other words, social media has become America’s Talking Circle and the cell phone the talking stick.
By watching the many video submissions people have sent us, each one of us can tap into the collective consciousness of our vast and diverse country. We can momentarily walk in the shoes of others and understand what America seems like from their point of view.
The Talking Circle is an indigenous North American tradition of governance thousands of years in the making. It is both democratic and egalitarian. We have asked elders and leaders in tribes and bands throughout the United States and Canada to instruct us about Talking Circles, and how we might create our own American Talking Circle to begin a dialogue amongst ourselves.
People's Talking Circle
With our “The America I Want Is...” Talking Circle, we are doing something that has never been done in quite this way before. We are providing a positive, social media platform for Americans to express what they want for their country.
Using a technique first developed by the Globo TV network in Brazil, we are inviting Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life to send us a 30-second video on their cell phones, beginning with the words “The America I want is...”. You can see some of the current submissions on our YouTube channel. They are fascinating for their breadth and insights. In addition, as submissions come in, we are choosing some examples for follow-up interviews, allowing people to elaborate upon their abbreviated 30-second thoughts.
America has one of the most diverse populations in the world. That diversity is among our strengths and qualities. But with diversity inevitably comes strongly different visions and different points of view. This part of the program is designed to identify the specific bonds that hold us together as a nation.
We understand it is unlikely that people will watch the many thousands of submissions, so Linley, over time, will label and tag each, providing a database of information based on topics, geographical regions and states. We are also taking the most important topics and turning them into virtual Talking Circles, inviting experts to help deepen our understanding of the issues.
This first phase of our initiative is about individual expression, collective listening and citizen involvement. If you have something to say about your America, now is the time to share it.
In our state-by-state Talking Circles, we ask leaders in politics, education, the law, military, as well as thinkers and commentators to tell us what they most admire about their state. What message would they want to send the nation? And how would the nation be better off if it were more like their state? These short interviews will be based on six to ten questions.
Why have we chosen Vermont as our first state?
Our states are where we live, work, and raise our families. The challenges we face on the local level tend to be practical not ideological. We want be proud of our state. We want them to function well.
For generations Vermonters have pondered the question of the America they want. From drawing up the first constitution to banning slavery to the legalization of gay marriage, Vermont has often found itself in the forefront of the American debate.
First an independent republic and then the first state to join the original thirteen, Vermont has always been frugal in fiscal policy, but often in the vanguard on social matters and issues of conscience. These range from sending the highest number of men per capita to fight in the Civil War, to pioneering rural electrification in the 1930s. In these, and in many other ways, Vermonters have never shied away from sending a message about the America they want.
This is one of the reasons why we have chosen to start an intentional national conversation here in Vermont: a liberal state with a Republican Governor — a conservative history with a long-standing progressive streak.
The People's Assembly Talking Circle
The culmination of our initiative will be the creation of a Citizens Assembly Talking Circle made up of 150 representatives selected from the tens of thousands of “The America I Want Is…” participants. The chosen participants will come from all walks of life, all states, all races, all ages—a comprehensive representation of America.