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Educators' unions call for efforts to ensure in-person learning keeps students, teachers, families, and staff safe; and an update on hate crimes by state.

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National Week of Conversation Kicks Off Saturday

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Friday, June 11, 2021   

NEW YORK -- The inaugural "America Talks" event begins tomorrow and runs through Sunday, as part of an effort to heal social and political divisions that have driven a wedge between people with different viewpoints.

Thousands of Americans will take part in the mass video-chat event, which marks the start of the fourth annual National Week of Conversation.

Cheryl Hughes is a co-organizer of the event and a nonprofit consultant from Greenville, Ohio. She is a self-described liberal, and says it's important to reach across the aisle.

Cheryl Hughes of Greenville, Ohio, a co-organizer, participant and self-described liberal, said it's important to reach across the aisle.

"I have actually lost friends because of positions that they hold," Hughes acknowledged. "I just have decided I need to become a better listener."

The National Week of Conversation is designed to counteract the kind of vitriol often found on social media, and introduce people to folks with differing views.

To be matched with a conversation partner for the event this weekend, sign up at AmericaTalks.us. The site also lists dozens of online forums on the schedule for next week.

Organizers ask people to choose courage over contempt, and reject the hostility that leads to political gridlock and hampers efforts to tackle the big issues.

Ron McFarland, a retired teacher from Iowa who describes himself as a fiscal conservative and moderate Republican, said he's taken heat for his views.

"There's so much hurt, so much polarization and divide in the country," McFarland remarked. "But for me, it's 'Go, America!'"

The National Week of Conversation promotes what organizers call "bridging norms." They advise everyone to listen with curiosity, speak from their own experience, and connect with respect.


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