Bridging the Political Divide
Dennis Smith has a gift for bringing people together. A fourth generation Coloradan, he cares deeply about the state as well as local communities and the country at large. He believes that how people treat each other matters – and it matters a lot.
Smith, who is a retired CPA, grew up in Jefferson County where his grandfather had an apple orchard and a fruit farm. He has lived in Douglas County – Franktown to be exact – for the past 42 years with his wife, Libby. Together, they have two sons, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren and another one on the way.
For the past many years, Smith has been dedicating much of his time trying to help bridge the divide of the nation with the nonprofit organization, Braver Angels. Braver Angels was formed at the national level in late 2016 after that year’s highly divisive elections. A family therapy model was used to encourage people across political affiliations to come together and really listen and talk to each other. With equal representation of republicans, democrats and others, the group seeks to help people focus on commonalities rather than differences. “The goal is for serious learning and soul searching,” said Smith, adding that it’s not about changing beliefs but better understanding each other.
Braver Angel Alliances have formed across the country, each with access to formalized programs and workshops and trained leaders. Smith joined the Denver Alliance in 2017 and, recently, helped form the new Colorado Southern Front Range Alliance. It will serve Douglas County east to Elbert County, south to the New Mexico border and west to the Continental Divide, likely breaking into smaller alliances down the road as membership grows.
According to Smith, the hope of Braver Angels is to help depolarize America, starting with families, neighbors, and communities with the purpose of spreading love instead of hate. “I love having neighbors that think well of me, as well as I’d love to think well of them even though they might vote differently,” he said.
In February, Smith and his team held a Depolarizing Within workshop with 43 participants and more than half were from Douglas County. The goal was to focus on listening and thinking before speaking to better understand each other. “We make better decisions when we just sit down and talk,” said Smith.
Going forward, there are plans for every-other-month workshops and programs. The next one, Skills for Bridging the Divide, will be held via Zoom on Thursday, May 5, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The next meeting will be July 7. Participants can expect to listen, engage and practice in break-out sessions during programs. Future program topics include: Families and Politics, Red/Blue, Common Ground, Depolarizing Conversations About Race, One-On-One Conservations Across Differences, Debates, and Film and Books Discussions.
Anyone interested in learning more about Braver Angels is welcome to participate in up to two meetings before joining with a membership. The current membership fee is $12 per year paid to the national organization. To read more about Braver Angels, visit www.braverangels.org and to learn more about the Braver Angels Colorado Southern Front Range Alliance, or to inquire about attending an upcoming meeting, contact Dennis Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. “The future of our country hangs in the balance of our being able to work together,” concluded Smith.
By Elean Gersack; photo courtesy of Dennis Smith