Nine out of 10 Americans say they feel exhausted by polarization — but the founders of StoryCorps’ One Small Step initiative say it doesn’t have to be this way.
KHOL producer Alyson Spery is in the midst of a months-long effort to facilitate over two dozen conversations for One Small Step, pairing people with different political beliefs together for a conversation.
Spery said the point is not to debate politics but to get an understanding of where the other side is coming from.
“We talk about the people in their lives that have shaped them and the moments in their lives that have shaped what they believe,” Spery said. “Sometimes that leans into directly what they believe politically or what they believe in spiritually.”
Spery recently facilitated a conversation between Mary Martin, the chair of the local Republican party, and Angela “Rae” Suerig, a therapist who leans progressive. They found common ground in discussing their creativity, their small-town upbringing and their care for community well-being.
“I kind of feel like I’m playing matchmaker here,” Spery said, “whether it’s growing up in the Midwest or coming from a military family.”
“If I really was a matchmaker, people would be falling in love right now,” she added. “People are exchanging numbers at the end. They want to continue the conversation and maybe even grow a friendship from this. It’s just one small step.”
One Small Step conversations are recorded and shared with StoryCorps and the Library of Congress to be archived for future generations.
Listen to the full interview with Martin and Suerig on StoryCorps’ website, or listen to an excerpt in the link above.