Dinner parties with a significant risk

Making America dinner, deep division, and 5 links worth your time

Would you invite a stranger into your home to discuss politics?

You might routinely have discussions over the dinner table with friends and family who disagree with you politically, but I’m talking about something different. Would you invite a total stranger—someone you don’t know much about except that their political point of view is opposed to your own—into your home for dinner and political discussion?

If your answer to that question is “heck no,” I suspect you are in the majority. But our podcast guest this week, Justine Lee, is one of those rare people who not only said “yes,” but doing so changed her career path.

“We need to hear from each other”

As a politically progressive person in San Francisco, Justine was shocked on election night in 2016. She couldn’t believe that Donald Trump had beaten Hilary Clinton in the presidential race. As she and her friend Tria Chang processed their feelings following the election, they both realized they didn’t know anyone who had voted for Donald Trump and that, despite feeling like they were politically well-informed, there were significant gaps in their knowledge and understanding of people who didn’t vote the way they did. 

Justine and Tria wanted to do something productive, and they felt that whatever they did to correct this lack of information, it would need to involve listening to others because “clearly, we haven’t been doing that.” They thought the best way to bring people who disagreed together to have a productive conversation would be over a meal, and they planned to host a small dinner with a group composed equally of Clinton and Trump voters. 

But because they didn’t know any Trump voters, they had to advertise on Republican internet forums and convince people they’d never met to come to their home and have dinner with other strangers who, like Tria and Justine, had voted for someone else and were shocked by the outcome of the election.  

From a dinner party to a new career

You can find out what happened by listening to our latest podcast, and you’ll also find a video in our five links this week that documents the beginnings and the impact of Make America Dinner Again (MADA), the movement that Justine and Tria started and that is still happening across the country today. 

That experience and the lessons she learned from her efforts with MADA made Justine re-evaluate how she wanted to spend her time professionally, too. Today, she’s the executive director of Living Room Conversations, one of the most significant nonprofits in the United States working to encourage “bridging” across political and demographic divides. 

That work is more important than ever because, as you’ll see in our five links this week, there’s good reason to be worried about the political polarization in our country today. You’ll also find an op-ed Justine published following the inauguration earlier this year in which she describes the lessons she’s learned from the work she’s done. 

I hope you, too, will learn something from my conversation with Justine. If you do, please drop me a line and let me know about it!

5 links worth your time

  1. The inspiring story of how two women started The Make America Dinner Again project.  
  2. Endless ideological conflict risks our own destruction. 
  3. You can still answer the president’s call for unity without compromising your values.
  4. A guide to the most—and least—politically open-minded counties in America.  
  5. It’s time to recognize that our political and cultural differences are real, not contrived.

Photo by Monkey Business on Adobe Stock