It occurred to me the other day that I’m learning constantly from some very thoughtful, curious, and hard-working friends whose views span the political spectrum, and (where are my manners?!) I have completely neglected to introduce them to you.
So here are a few fine folks to get to know.
I’ll let you all take it from here. 💛
April is the architect of Braver Angels Debates, which has the most successful structure I have ever seen — or more like experienced — for empowering people with wildly different takes on frustrating issues to actually hear and be heard by each other. She’s also on the other side of the aisle from me, effing brilliant, and (hooray!) my conversation partner on my podcast, A Braver Way. Here’s one debate she chaired on abortion that blew minds, and the column she wrote about it. And here’s an essay of hers that earned an award from New York Times columnist David Brooks. “Lawson has put her long experience with Reds to good use and persuaded me that better conflict is the answer, not no conflict,” Brooks wrote. I’ve seen April’s warmth melt people’s fears more times than I can count. She’s not on social media much (lucky?!), but has more projects coming up soon. Stay tuned...
You ever meet super driven, focused people, learn how young they are, and go, wait, what? Manu is razor sharp as CEO of BridgeUSA, an organization that facilitates healthy political disagreement in two of the places it’s needed most — college campuses and high schools. I knew he was a force when I watched him rally liberal and conservative students to near frenzy at the BridgeUSA Summit in DC in the spring of 2022. “The battle lines are not Trump vs. Biden. Not liberal vs. conservative. They are open-mindedness vs. closed-mindedness. Empathy versus exclusion,” he told the crowd. “The people on the extremes are loud. We can be LOUDER.” He was on Forbes 30 under 30 and he is just getting started. You can follow him on Instagram, X, and better yet — on his Hopeful Majority podcast.
The fact that the New Yorker referred to him a “rising star” is very apt, given that Angel is the guy who coined an evolution of “steel-manning” that he calls “star-manning.” “To star-man is to not only engage with the strongest and most charitable version of your opponent’s argument,” he explains in this handy clip from the Listen First Project, “but also with the strongest and most charitable version of your opponent.” Watching Angel debate people on X is a revelation. He brings all the fire, but he doesn’t burn. Apt again, now that he’s senior writer and editor for FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. Angel and I first connected on X while I was writing my book, and every chance I get to join him on something, I do. You’ll find his op-eds everywhere, and the ones he’s writing now, in the wake of major turbulence on college campuses, don’t hold back.
“Shut off the news and talk to your neighbor.” That’s the prescription my friend Wilk’s got for everyone feeling consumed by political outrage. Wilk was a truck driver for years. Now he’s an operations manager at a logistics outfit in Minnesota, and the host of a podcast that helps people defang that outrage with personal responsibility. His podcast is called Derate the Hate, and the candor he brings as a working-class conservative host has been eye-opening for me to hear. Wilk also helps run the We The People’s Project, a cross-partisan group of working-class Americans who are elevating perspectives far beyond the urban, coastal, educated “elite” ones (like mine!). It’s a privilege to get to work with him. And if you want to see him in full form, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of his episodes with Dr. Francis Collins, the former head of the NIH whose policies during COVID Wilk couldn’t have disagreed with more.