Common Ground Debates

Common Ground Debates bring together people from different sides of an issue for an evening of constructive dialogue. They are a new take on the classic debate framework, but with a focus on solutions and common ground—as opposed to the classic win/lose paradigm. The goal is to bring us out of our bubbles and to foster conversations on key current issues with a wide set of different perspectives.  At each event, there are a total of four speakers (two representing each side) and a moderator, who plays an important part in the discussion.

Our upcoming Common Ground Debate is centered on identity politics. It will take place on May 24th at Mission Theater in Portland, OR. The event features Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Robin Johnson, and Michael Parkhurst. It will be moderated by John Wood, Jr., a board member of Bridging Our Divide and a staff member at Better Angels.  

To purchase tickets, visit the e-tickets page HERE.

Robin Johnson is the Director of Equity Advancement at the Center for Equity and Inclusion. Through this work, Robin assists with the creation and implementation of equity plans for non-profit organizations. Before this, Robin was an Inclusion Policy Advisor with the Office of the Governor in Oregon. Robin says she pursues this work because "as a woman of color, having felt the impact of intuitional racism throughout my life, I have found that the barriers were at times ameliorated by personal connections helping me to navigate the system, but the more devastating effects needed to be addressed holistically and systemically. Without that overarching approach the negative impacts just kept reoccurring, not only for myself, but for others in my family and community."

Michael Parkhurst is a Program Officer on the Housing Opportunities team at Meyer Memorial Trust.  After a stretch in academia, Michael worked in local government for about 15 years in community development, housing policy and revitalization before joining Meyer in 2014.  His work is shaped by a lifelong commitment to social justice, and he is driven to continually deepen his understanding of how structural and institutional dynamics create injustice around race, class, gender and other hierarchies.

Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying were previously professors at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. They resigned in 2017 after an upheaval that took place in the wake of a "Day of Absence," which encouraged white students, staff, and faculty members to leave campus in order to "explore issues of race, equity, allyship, inclusion and privilege." Bret (and eventually, Heather) responded to this, explaining publicly that a student's right to be on campus shouldn't be based on skin color. Various students and staff members at Evergreen demanded that Bret be investigated and suspended without pay. Bret and Heather now write and speak on the topics of evolution, civilization, and intolerance. They've been featured on the Joe Rogan Podcast, the Rubin Report, and Waking Up with Sam Harris.

John Wood, Jr. will be moderating the Common Ground Debate on identity politics. John is a board member of Bridging Our Divide and the Director of Media Development at Better Angels. He also hosts his own podcast, The Wood Review. 

Upcoming topics include:

  1. Merit-based immigration, family migration, and immigration based on need: Where is the path forward?  
  2. Should we be designating more land as monuments and reserves?
  3. When does the sharing of ideas become cultural appropriation?
  4. Does climate change adaptation bring economic opportunity?

Want to learn more or host a common ground debate in your city? Get in touch