Better Angels Founding Convention Highlights
At our Founding Convention, 172 Better Angels came together to meet in person and ultimately to help ratify a formal public statement known as ‘An American Declaration.’ The Convention was held June 6-9, 2018 at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. There were 147 voting delegates in attendance, evenly split between liberals and conservatives – 72 red delegates, 72 blue delegates, and 3 unaffiliated delegates. Twenty-five others attended as staff, volunteers, and representing our partners. Delegates were admitted by application only from a pool of 214 applicants.
The program included discussions on the root sources of polarization, the current state of our citizen-led movement to depolarize America, and revisions and editing of the Declaration document before voting. Breakout sessions allowed participants to experience new Better Angels programs: debates on topics like Policing & Racial Dynamics and Populism and Nationalism in America; Issues Workshops on Religious Liberty / LGBT Rights and Immigration Justice / Border Control; and a session on Better Angels Media. The evenings included optional sing-alongs, Q&A sessions with our leadership, and national organizing meetings. The Convention closed with the signing of the newly ratified Declaration. Over 100 delegates signed the Declaration. A celebratory concert followed that evening featuring performers such as Peter Yarrow, Dana LaCroix, and Steve Seskin.
Better Angels received significant national media attention featuring our Founding Convention, appearing the front page of USA Today on June 26th and in an eight-minute segment on PBS Nightline on July 26th.
In 2017 about thirty key early members of Better Angels had gathered in Harrisonburg, Virginia for brainstorming and a leadership retreat. Never could they have imagined that just one year later, the size of their gathering would have multiplied six-fold.
Data from our Convention evaluations suggests that ninety percent of the delegates found in the experience an opportunity to develop new and deeper relationships with others who held very different political views than their own, while ninety-four percent indicated the Convention allowed them to have meaningful conversations with delegates of the opposite political persuasion and gave them hope that some cooperation is possible even with those whom they disagree. Seventy-nine percent agreed that they left the Convention less polarized than before.