Better Angels

After all the rather depressing news I’ve shared recently about political polarization and corruption, I’m eager to begin writing about some positive subjects! Today, I’m going to be sharing some of my recent experiences, and after a short vacation, I’ll be introducing new ways of looking at politics and public policy, and then begin diving into specific issues.

In the past few weeks, I’ve become more active in my new volunteer role as state coordinator for Better Angels in Iowa, and it has already been a very rewarding experience! Three weekends ago, I traveled to Clinton for a Better Angels event hosted by the Sisters of St. Francis. The following weekend, I drove down to Lamoni for another Better Angels event hosted by Graceland University. I felt like a candidate for U.S. Congress again, traveling to the northeast and southwest portions of District 2, but without all the political baggage! I also created a new Facebook page for Better Angels Iowa.

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The event in Clinton was simply wonderful! You can read a writeup about the event here, along with short video testimonies from some of the participants. I already knew some of the attendees, Republicans from Clinton county, and also made new friends. I was present as an observer, which meant that I couldn’t speak during the proceedings; and let me tell you that it’s very hard for me to keep quiet when politics is being discussed! Still, it was a great opportunity to just watch and listen. The organizers and moderators for the event were absolutely great, and I think everyone participating had an excellent experience! The group in Clinton is now organizing a local Better Angels Alliance, which will allow them to meet more regularly, dive deeper into policy discussions, and plan future events.

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The students of Graceland University have also been leaders of the Better Angels movement in Iowa, and they put on a fabulous event the following weekend. Once again, I knew some of the participants, both students and local Republicans, and again made new friends. In fact, I got invited to ride RAGBRAI this year with one of the Democratic attendees! I also got to meet some of the national leaders of Better Angels, to include President and Co-Founder, David Blankenhorn. This time, I got to be an active participant in the workshops, which was definitely more engaging. We did all the Better Angels activities, to include Skills Training Workshops, Red/Blue Workshops, and a Better Angels Debate. The Graceland University administrators were very welcoming, our moderators were again excellent, and I expect great things from the Graceland students going forward! Due to these two wonderful experiences, I have begun moderator training so that I may help to facilitate future Better Angels events in Iowa.

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Taking a break from Better Angels, I had a wonderful time with my three sons in Chicago last weekend! We were politically incorrect, teased one another mercilessly, and had an excellent Windy City vacation. My youngest son, Caleb, who is interested in architecture, visited the Illinois Institute of Technology campus, which he found very appealing. We also went to comedy performances by The Second City and the Blue Man Group, had Chicago-style pizza, and walked dozens of miles. We ended our visit with a late night game of Euchre (Jake and I won, barely), before dropping off Cole the following morning for his return flight to St. Paul. Thanks, boys; your dad needed that time with his handsome and entertaining young men!

Love and Politics

In the spirit of Better Angels, I came across the story of Ryan and Haley Moon last week. Ryan tells their story at the Des Moines Storytellers Project’s, Love in the Modern World, in the video above. You can also read the writeup in the Des Moines Register, here.

“Haley and I got married this past November, just a few days before the midterm elections. The guest list was a mixture of our friends and family, both liberal and conservative. Speeches from the day talked about how we started on opposite sides of the aisle, but ended up walking down the same aisle, and how even though our country seems to get more divided by the minute, for at least one day, everyone was able to put that aside and focus on what matters most in life: love.

While we still debate politics regularly, at the end of the day we agree on more than we disagree on. There is more common ground out there than people realize;and all it takes is a little bit of listening to find it.

To this day, Haley is still a registered Republican and I am still a registered Democrat. The day we signed our marriage license, we walked across the street and canceled each other’s votes out. While I never thought I would go anywhere near the other side of the aisle, I could not be happier that I crossed it to be with her. Together, walking down the aisle is where we always belonged.”

I spoke with Ryan after I returned to Chicago, and hope to work with him and Haley to further promote the Better Angels mission in Iowa.

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Better Angels National Convention

The Second Better Angels National Convention will be held on the campus of Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri June 20-23, 2019, providing the opportunity to gather with Better Angels from all across the country. Together, Reds and Blues in equal number, we will experience new programs, discuss the growth of our citizens’ movement, and make key decisions about our work going forward. Delegates will leave with new and deeper relationships with one another and an action plan to go out and depolarize America.

Full Registration $395
Includes three nights of private dorm room accommodations and all meals, from Thursday dinner through Sunday lunch.

Staying Off-Site Registration $295
Includes all meals, from Thursday dinner through Sunday lunch, but no accommodations.

Student Registration $195
Includes three nights of private dorm room accommodations and all meals, from Thursday dinner through Sunday lunch.

For information about this year’s conference, click here. To revisit highlights from last year’s convention, please watch this video.

Given the nice geographic advantage we’ll have this year, I’m extending a special invitation to all of my midwestern friends to attend this year’s National Convention. Julie and I are looking forward to participating, and hope some of you can make the journey!

We are especially looking for Red attendees, so if you’re a Blue who would like to attend, please try to reach out to someone you know from the “other side” who might also be interested.

If you are interested in possibly attending, please check out the links above, and feel free to reach out to me for additional information at