Communicate despite differences


Tribune Chronicle articles written by Andy Gray and published Jan. 21 titled “When to take a stand” and “Nonprofits should use caution on social media” touch upon perhaps the most essential factor in a successful democracy — informed citizen participation in government. The founding fathers contemplated spirited discussions by citizens who considered it their duty to debate important issues. How did this country get from that to “the two things you should never discuss are religion and politics?” I think those are the two things we should most often discuss! Especially with persons with whom we believe we might disagree.

At business meetings and social gatherings, I try to sit at a table with persons I don’t know. Most people tend to sit with those with whom they work or normally socialize. What a wasted opportunity to share your concerns and listen to how others think and feel. It’s the best medicine for divisiveness.

My brother and I are nearly complete political opposites, but we emphasize what we have in common, such as a love of history and, of course, our brotherhood. He once told me after an intense political discussion, “You know, if we weren’t brothers, we’d probably hate each other.”

That’s right –it’s hard to hate up close.

Consider the friendships between these political polar opposites: Sens. Paul Wellstone and Jesse Helms; Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy; and my favorite, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. Shortly after Falwell’s 2007 death, Flynt said this:

“My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face, you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person … Jerry Falwell and I became good friends.”

So I say go for it. You might lose some donors, but you might attract others. It works both ways. Not a rant, but a reasoned, cordial discussion. Everything should be on the table. If community and business leaders in our society don’t step up to the plate to set good examples, we’re doomed.


Executive Director /

Corporate Counsel

Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County