#509 – Dick Bernard: A Learning Session in Woodbury

See Feb. 6 Update at end of this post.

Last night we attended a very interesting session sponsored by the group River Valley Action. The topic was Myth Busters. (DebunkingCommonMyths_Jan31_final)
There were three excellent and knowledgeable presenters: J. Drake Hamilton of the organization Fresh Energy; Professor David Schultz; and Kathy Tomsich of League of Women Voters Minnesota (do watch their video on Voter ID). The speakers topics related to their area of expertise, and their websites are well worth a visit. The format was effective, but the room was too crowded. More than 100 people were in attendance – they had expected perhaps 60.
My biggest learning last night – it was really a reminder, I first learned it as a ‘target’ myself in a political campaign in the early 1970s – came from watching a certain few members of the assembled crowd, all in the back of the room, who seemed to be most interested in disrupting, confusing and displaying anger. None of them were excluded from participation. They walked in like all the rest of us (though one of them grumped loudly that they weren’t invited – but if so, why were they there?) Someone described their behavior as thuggish, and in a couple of cases it definitely was.
“Do you want a quote?”
, one said to me, thinking me to be a journalist, I guess. (Thanks for the quote.)
Of course, with a negative mindset going in, ‘facts’ are of no value or even interest. There is no listening. If an unpleasant fact comes forth, there is simply a new charge, and on it goes. The angry bunch may have ‘high-five’d’ each other afterward – “we showed ’em!” – but they definitely reflected very poorly on themselves.
The “grumps” were people who would have no interest in supporting anything. They were into their own abundant anger, and that was about it.
Many sessions like last night are essential if we are ever going to begin to move past the insanity of todays anger-based politics. We have to sit in the same room, and talk, talk, talk, and listen, civilly.
I kept thinking back to a favorite quotation of mine, on dialogue, which I found in Joseph Jaworsky’s 1996 book, “Synchronicity, the Inner Path of Leadership“. Preceding the chapter on “Dialogue: The Power of Collective Thinking“, Jaworsky includes the following from David Bohms “On Dialogue”:
“From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle.
They just talked and talked and talked apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader. And everybody could participate.
There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more – the older ones – but everybody could talk.
The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed. Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well. Then they could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.”

We could use a lot more dialogue in our community, state and country.
I took a few photos, and perhaps they’re a good way to end this piece. (click on them to enlarge.)
Thanks to the River Valley Action folks for an excellent evening.

Kathy Tomsich of League of Women Voters (at left) and Claire Wilson from MN Secretary of State's office answer questions.

David Schultz of Hamline University (at right)

J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Eneergy (at left of flipchart)

Outstretched arm guy at the back of the room seemed to have a need to dominate and control, but mostly reflected poorly on himself.

UPDATE February 6, 2011, here