The Work Ahead

rob-speechJanuary 27, 2017
Rob Fersh, Founder and President
Convergence

This past weekend we witnessed the pageantry of the Inauguration followed by protest marches across the world—each symbolizing timeless democratic values as well as the uncertain times we live in. We know that this election was divisive and different. Many wonder if we can come together as a country and find ways to bridge our differences. We believe that now more than ever this must be done and we remain committed to doing our part.

On Sunday, after the crowds for the Inauguration and the march had cleared out, I ventured downtown to give friends a tour. After driving by the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, we walked in the hastening darkness and drizzle through the memorials to MLK, FDR, Lincoln and the wars in Vietnam and Korea. It was a good time to get historical perspective on our country’s most deeply held values and to be reminded that one horrible, ultimate consequence of division can be war itself.

Out of so many moving words we saw inscribed in stone, I share one that spoke to me—this one from Martin Luther King Jr.

“Make a career of humanity…You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

I suspect most of us share the ambition to make a career of humanity. We look to cultivate humanity in ourselves, our families, our communities, and in our work. At Convergence, deepening humanity is central to our mission. Underneath the ambitious national projects we undertake is the belief that deep compassion and understanding across differences can lead to human thriving. We seek a world where individuals and leaders at all levels choose to explore every avenue to collaborate before resorting to other means to resolve conflicts. We know that no matter what challenges people face, creating a genuine dialogue holds the potential for new pathways and partnerships of profound benefit.

This is not easy work. The election revealed that many people can’t even begin to fathom the worldviews of others. That is why it is time to double down. The only way to bridge this chasm is for people to talk to each other.

We know that dialogue will not be possible or even appropriate for all times, all issues or all people. There may be some groups or individuals who are either so confident of their own truths or so filled with animosity they cannot participate constructively. But our experience suggests that most people are of good will and even reluctant participants in dialogue often become its strongest adherents. On the great issues of the day—national, state or local—our work shows that it is possible to find wise and effective solutions that honor divergent points of view.

As for Convergence, our current projects are moving forward strongly. Diverse groups of leaders remain committed to transforming K-12 education, improving economic mobility, and addressing the failure of Congress to create timely and responsive federal budgets. Our newest project on incarceration is generating interest from a broad cross-section of leaders in the criminal justice field. In addition, we stand ready to take on new challenges where we can be uniquely helpful.

We hope that people everywhere will do what they can to convene conversations across differences. We would love to know about your efforts and want to be helpful to you. Collectively, you and we and many others already engaged in this arena can build a culture of empathy and respect. It will have lasting impact on humanity and create the finer world that Dr. King described.

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