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One curious summer

Breathless in Aspen

We started our adventure at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where I gave the most winded talk of my entire life. Our flight to Aspen had been diverted to Grand Junction and my two-hour-plus cab pulled up to the tent *two minutes* before the (truly amazing) organizers told me I’d need to be knocked from the lineup. I jumped onstage in clothes I’d worn on the plane, did my lightning talk on getting curious when it’s really hard feeling really lucky, then stuck around to moderate one panel on polarization, join another one about living the good life, and soak up as much as I could from an extraordinary event.

Another highlight: Getting to meet and chat with some fascinating people. Among them: actor Rainn Wilson, who bantered with my 10-year-old son and fellow fan of “The Office,” and the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., who leaned over after my talk to say she’d found it “profoundly inspiring.” 😮


Hopeful in Gettysburg

Next, on Independence Day, I joined 670 everyday Americans at the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War… to prevent another one. It wasn’t just my husband and kids who came with me to the Braver Angels Convention, but my parents too. I told stories from my arguments with them across the political divide — stories that led me straight to this work — in my talk for the ideologically balanced assembly of delegates (43% Red, 43% Blue, 14% “Other”!), then harmonized with Dad on a song he wrote about my book I still can’t believe is real. ❤️💙

Another highlight: Becoming officially addicted to Braver Angels Debates. I attended five in-person debates in Gettysburg — including “Should we re-elect Donald Trump?” and “Is America a racist nation?” — and am now training to be a Debate Chair so I can bring them home.


Encouraged in Atlantic City

Then I set off for The National Governors Association summer meeting in New Jersey. Each year the chair of this association of our 50 U.S. governors picks a new initiative to work on, and it was here that new NGA chair Spencer Cox, the Republican governor of Utah, along with vice chair Jared Polis, the Democratic governor of Colorado, launched Disagree Better — a campaign to encourage politicians (and everyone else) to upgrade their toxic political brawls so we have a chance at making real progress on big issues. My role? To moderate a panel with Gov. Cox, author Yuval Levin, and UNITE founder and Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver (yup, JFK’s nephew).

Another highlight: I packed an extra dress for a “dinner” the night before the panel that turned out to be way less formal than I expected. The NGA had rented out the entire carnival Steel Pier in Atlantic City, “dinner” was an endless supply of pizza and fried dough, I chatted with policymakers between the bumper cars and the flying dutchman, and left that dress in my bag.


Wistful in Chautauqua

Last but not least, there was the description-defying event known as the Chautauqua Institution. The summer lecture series and multigenerational learning community turns a whopping 150 years old next year, and every weekday they feature one lecture on a theme. I was invited to close out “The State of Believing” week and attended talks from fellow lecturers Kate Bowler (on belief in religion), Brian Greene (on belief in science), and Setti Warren (on belief in government). What was my talk about? Our belief in each other… also known as trust.

Another highlight: Meeting people whose families have been coming to Chautauqua every summer for — no joke — eight generations. Plus, all those front porches! They were all the rage in the late 1800s, so pretty much every house here had one. Air conditioning, TV, and the end of outhouses made back decks the modern trend, but wouldn’t it be cool if we could be that open to our neighbors again… someday?

— Moni


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