Mary Pat Peck: “If we don’t find ways to respectfully talk, we cannot begin to work together on solutions.”

IMG_7221What do you remember about your first Institute?

“What struck me during the first Institute I attended was that people who advocated for an approach that was very far from my perspective, were often raising the same concerns that I had and wanting the same societal outcome.  We just had reached different conclusions about how to get there.”

What do you see as the importance of public dialog?

“We are a divided country and community.  By and large we only talk to those who we agree with, and we make extreme suppositions about the motivations and beliefs of those who don’t see things the same way we do.  And, while I believe that all of my opinions are “well-reasoned and insightful,” I also know that if I only talk to people who think like I do, I am unlikely to learn anything.”

How would you answer someone who says community conversations are a waste of time?

“If we don’t find ways to respectfully talk about how we see those challenges that confront us, we cannot begin to work together on solutions.  And, if we can’t work together to create constructive solutions for the issues/problems that are before us, we can have no reasonable hope for a better future.”

The 2016 Civic Life Institute, our annual workshop on community engagement techniques, is July 19-20 at the University of Charleston. Register here:

Mary Pat Peck is retired from state government in West Virginia. She has attended multiple Institutes and Center events.


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