Methodology

President Trump and Vision for America


Session 1: Getting to Know One Another

The moderator has learned from past unsuccessful attempts to orchestrate face-to-face respectful conversations about contentious issues that an initial meeting must be devoted to the conversation partners “getting to know one another” and agreeing to stipulated “guidelines” for how they will listen to and talk to one another in a respectful manner (rather than starting immediately with expressing their differing views on the contentious issue that will eventually be discussed).

Therefore, the agenda for the first session will be devoted to the following two components:

Each conversation partner will be asked to respond, in 4-5 minutes, without interruption, to the following Leading Questions:

  • Who are you? (Briefly introduce yourself to us).
  • Why have you joined this conversation? What do you hope to get out of this conversation? What is at stake? (Wherever possible, draw on aspects of your own “story” that inform your responses).

Given that the primary purpose of this first session is to “get to know one another,” the responses given to these two questions will not be transcribed or recorded or otherwise preserved in any fashion.

GUIDELINES FOR RESPECTFUL CONVERSATION: Before proceeding, in subsequent sessions, with our conversation about “President Trump and Visions for America,” we will agree to abide by the following ideals for conversation:

  • I will listen well, providing each person with a safe and welcoming space to express his/her beliefs.
  • I will seek to empathetically understand the reasons another person has for her beliefs.
  • I will express my beliefs, and my reasons for holding my beliefs, with commitment and conviction, but with a non-coercive style that invites conversation with a person who disagrees with me.
  • In my conversation with a person who disagrees with me, I will explore whether we can find some common ground that can further the conversation. But, if we cannot find common ground, I will conclude that “we can only agree to disagree, at least for now;” yet I will do so in a way that demonstrates respect for the other and concern for her well-being and does not foreclose the possibility of future conversations.
  • In aspiring to these ideals for conversation, I will also aspire to be characterized by humility, courage, patience and love.


The agendas for subsequent sessions, after this first session, will be as follows:


Session 2: Initial Reflections

Each conversation partner will be asked to respond, in 5-7 minutes, without interruption, to the following Leading Questions:

  • What is your vision for the future of America?
  • To what extent do you believe President Trump is facilitating, or not, the accomplishment of your vision for the future of America?

The eight responses to these two questions will be recorded and then transcribed, with copies of the transcriptions sent to all conversation partners within a week after the session.

These transcriptions will also be posted on this website without identifying the speakers to avoid local readers deciding not to read the reflections of any given conversation partner because of perceptions of “who he/she is” (e.g., perceived locally to be a “radical conservative” or a “radical liberal”); thereby hoping that local readers will evaluate the responses of conversation partners on the basis of their “content” rather than their “source.” The various transcriptions will be separated by a “visual marker.”

The website will also post a podcast that includes all the recorded responses, separated by an “audio marker.”




Sessions 3A, 3B, … : Response to Questions Raised by the Initial Reflections in SESSION 2

In preparation for a series of sessions (3A, 3B, …) to be devoted to conversation partners responding to the reflections shared in Session 2, each conversation partner and the Moderator will review the transcriptions for Session 2 to formulate Leading Questions to be posed in these subsequent #3 sessions (for as many sessions as are necessary to adequately address all the questions).

Each conversation partner will submit his/her questions electronically to the Moderator within two weeks after the completion of Session 2. The Moderator will then compile these questions, adding his own questions, and submit them electronically to the conversation partners at least one week prior to session 3A.

The following is an illustrative example of a Leading Question that can be posed:

A number of you proposed the need for “limited” government. This raises a question as to the nature of those “limits.” For example, a strict libertarian may argue that government should only provide for national defense, with the cost of infrastructure for roads and bridges to be borne by the private sector. Others may argue that government should provide some social welfare programs as a “safety net” for those members of society whose income is below the poverty level. What are the appropriate “limits” for a “limited” government?

As for Session 2, transcriptions and a podcast of the conversation in these #3 sessions will be posted on the website

Sessions 4A, 4B, … : Seeking to Identify Areas of Agreement and Disagreement that Emerge From the 3A, 3B, 3C … Sessions

In preparation for a series of sessions (4A, 4B, …) to be devoted to identifying areas of agreement and disagreement among the conversation partners, each conversation partner will review the transcriptions for the #3 sessions to formulate their perceptions of areas of agreement and disagreement, to be submitted electronically to the Moderator within three weeks after the completion of the last #3 session. The Moderator will then compile these perceptions, adding his own perceptions, and submit them electronically to the conversation partners at least one week prior to session 4A.

Transcriptions and podcasts for these #4 sessions will be posted on the website.

This series of sessions will continue until the conversation partners agree that their conversation has been exhausted (or until they are exhausted).