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In The Arena

Sep 28, 2020

In a time of an extremely divided America, Bruce Bond works with his team to develop common ground and inspire others to create positive change.

Bruce Bond has always had a love of politics; he studied it in college and has found great value in political engagement. But over the past several years, American politics has morphed into a new beast, something very different from what he had studied and admired.

“It had come to the point where there was a lot of demonizing going on, where if you disagree with me politically, then there’s something wrong with your character,” Bruce explains. “We just felt that was a really dangerous thing.”

He and his childhood friend, Erik Olsen, developed an idea of putting people from opposing viewpoints on stage together and then asking them to find points of agreement. The Common Ground Committee was first a side job, something Bruce and Erik would do when they had some spare time. But after two extremely successful events — one in the wake of the 2018 Charlottesville protests and another with John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice — the side job started to gain traction. Not long afterwards, Bruce quit his decades-long IT career to develop Common Ground into a full-time nonprofit.

As the country grows more divided over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans, the national response to the coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming presidential election, Bruce hopes that the public uses these meetings of the minds as the foundation for difficult but civil conversations.

“When people are awakened to the seriousness of a problem or what is possible either way, they start to move differently and they start to think and act differently and speak differently than what they've done in the past,” he says. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Listen to the complete episode with Bruce Bond to hear more about Common Ground Committee’s “grass-tops” approach, the exhausted majority and Bruce’s high school experience with the notion of try, try, try again.

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