Am I the only one who is tired of political rhetoric? Am I the only one tired of turning on the TV and radio only to hear Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olberman, Bill O’Reilly, Randi Rhodes, Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow earning big bucks for doing nothing more than repeating sound bites, talking points and arguing extreme perspectives on every issue? How did we get to the point where political debates were so politically correct that our leaders are afraid to say anything that their base might disagree? How did “We the people” allow our politicians to become puppets to special interest groups and lobbyists with the largest budgets?
It really is time for a change. In a time where more mediators are running for office, bringing with them the skills that conflict resolvers use, and where for a recent judge seat in Los Angeles County, four mediators were among those running, I think the change is more one of process than of ideals. While most will agree that President Obama has certainly been a change from his preceding President Bush, many would also say that policy change has not solved the problems we face. What is needed instead is process change. Until we change the way we do leadership, in government, big business and in every organization, whether a massive homeowner’s association or a small non-profit board, we will continue to face the same frustrations, the same failures, the same disenfranchising, and the same power struggles.
This is why I decided to hold our Immigration Dialogue 2010 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles on July 23rd. Sponsored by the American Institute of Mediation, this will be a discussion of a different kind. Rather than hosting a debate, where each side slings sound bites and talking points at the other, and the result is that each audience member becomes even more galvanized behind the position they carried with them into the debate hall, we are putting on a facilitated dialogue, essentially a mediation, featuring Arizona Representatives John Kavanagh (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D). We will discuss the immigration issues facing our nation, and have some discussion about Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, which is due to become law on July 28 of this year.
These two lawmakers, both intelligent and articulate, along with their constituents, have lived with these issues up close and personally in recent years. Because of their experiences and their perspectives on the immigration issues we all face today (the fact that there are somewhere between 11 and 12 million illegal immigrants living in this country), we can delve into the underlying interests that they and their constituents hold, that are driving their positions on the solution.
In hosting this event, the American Institute of Mediation is hoping to commence a change in the way we all talk about the critical issues that face our society, and to become more collaborative and a little less competitive; to listen more and argue less; and to explain, describe and attempt to understand, rather than simply repeating sound bites and talking points.
We will attempt to find the underlying interests that they have in common, and build from there because we believe that solutions that are derived from people’s interests are generally strong and long lasting, and we hope to demonstrate this by moving this discussion in that direction using the same skills that mediators use on a daily basis.
If a mere 120-minute dialogue about immigration among stakeholder representatives could curtail protests, boycotts and protracted litigation, wouldn’t you welcome the opportunity to watch such a conversation live and in person? We expect to fill a 300-seat neutral venue in Los Angeles with members of the public, government, law enforcement and of course the media who would witness how parties interested in the controversial immigration question might come together to have a facilitated dialogue from which every state, not just Arizona, could benefit.
We will do all that we are able to provide a safe, protest-free venue, a respectful audience, media coverage and the opportunity for our guests to speak about their issues freely and fully.
I am donating my time and resources to this project because in my 16-year career as a mediator, I have never encountered a conflict that could not benefit from a structured mediative approach when the parties so need to have their interests understood. I believe the immigration dilemma has been minimized to sound-bites and protests and is no exception to this rule. Our guests, as thought leaders on this topic deserve to be better heard and understood by those who disagree with them, and we are able to provide that forum.
We invite you to join us for this AIM Institute Special Event. Only 200 tickets will be sold, so register now before it sells out. Advance registration is required, and parking is free. Video highlights will be available online at the AIM Institute site following the event.