In Polarized Times, Westporters Seek Common Ground

Mia Bomback is a Staples High School sophomore. She is not yet old enough to vote.

But, she writes: 

I am beginning to develop my political awareness. And in our increasingly divisive society, the slippery slope that is civil discourse is confusing and overwhelming. As such, I feel so privileged to be one of 2 local high school students on a brand new town-led initiative that has set out to create space for all voices.  

In the wake of complex controversies, Common Ground Initiative is a Westport organization comprised of 11  figures of different ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, political and ethnic backgrounds.

We are united by a shared goal: a desire to make Westport a comfortable place for uncomfortable conversation.

Mia Bombeck

Members of the Common Ground Initiative include former 1st selectman Jim Marpe, Westport Library executive director Bill Harmer, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey Jr., and other local professionals.

Adam Vengrow, a founding member of CG, says that the initiative was founded in response to increased tension in Westport’s political climate over the past 2 years. 

 “The goal of CG,” he explains, “is to create a safe space for open conversation, where people can learn to agree to disagree, and understand each other’s points of view.”  

Over the past few months, we have planned for our inaugural event and the introduction of our mission to the wider Westport community. Through a series of open forums and guest speakers at the Westport Library, we hope to teach and encourage attendees to engage in open, honest and healthy dialogue.

Senator Roy Blunt

The first of many CG-led discussions will be held on May 2 (7 p.m.), and will feature a moderated conversation with former United States senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, and opportunity for audience engagement. Westporter Steve Parrish will moderate the event.

For Westport, CG provides a platform for freedom of conversation and expression. As the world becomes more globalized, respect and tolerance of other viewpoints become even more crucial. This starts at the community level.

As I grow up, I’ll no doubt encounter many different perspectives. From college to the workplace and beyond, learning to agree to disagree is a skill worth its weight in gold.

For more details on the May 2 Common Ground event. click here.

(“06880” gives a voice to teenagers like Mia Bombeck — and all Westporters. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)


5 responses to “In Polarized Times, Westporters Seek Common Ground

  1. charles taylor

    Hooray for Westport and its diverse opinions! I learned critical thinking at Staples and my quest for honoring others opinions continued through college and up to my 80th year. Common Ground is a prototype for all communities!

  2. What I remember about Westport back in the day…the 1960s, were lively, spirited and sometimes tense conversations at my parents’ dinner parties. We, strong Kennedy democrats and some friends, Goldwater people all having healthy, friendly debate followed by coffee and dessert, plus handshakes and hugs at the end of the evening.Then we might see these folks at church the next day, a school function with parents or at the beach and we all remained friends. No one was calling anyone names.

    This name calling of nazis, fascists and worse has got to go.

    What a lovely young lady to lead this initiative. I hope this is a start of something positive for Westport and the country. We have all had enough fighting.

  3. Great Idea .. let’s hope they learn the facts about the 45th president ( I’m ashamed to give that title).

  4. Stephanie Frankel

    Amazing! This should be done in every town, in every school, and every state. School boards across the country could benefit from groups like this rather than the Leadership Institute or other divisive groups trying to infiltrate and divide.
    I am so proud to live here.

  5. Amazing initiative & timing couldn’t be better!

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