I Respectfully Disagree

Red states and blue states are drifting further apart, ideologically. Rural youth are migrating faster and faster to urban centers. Small town newspapers and radio stations are going silent. Families can't even carry on a respectful conversation at the 4th of July potluck! Never has it been more important for the media to step forward and moderate conversations across divides. 

That's why Wyoming Public Media (WPM) started a series called "I Respectfully Disagree." Some of the conversations we've aired are between people in Wyoming who are modeling civil discourse in their daily lives, like a conversation between an LGBTQ advocate and a Catholic deacon. Other conversations in the series are arranged by WPM. An example is the breaking bread event WPM hosted in Gillette, bringing together coal miners, immigrants, social workers and others to talk about the hard times in the area. We look forward to trying creative approaches whether, that's through our reporting, guest reporting by non-journalists, or hosting pop-up newsrooms. 

If YOU have a good idea for how this series can get people talking and listening to each other, please contact Melodie Edwards at medward9@uwyo.edu or call 307-766-2405. 

If you would like to submit your community civil discourse event, click here to submit it to our events calendar.


This programming is supported in part by Wyoming Humanities through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative of the Federation of State Humanities Councils of the United States.

Anna Rader

It seems like people don’t agree on much these days, but there’s one thing many people do agree on: the need for more dialogue across ideological divides. So, Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards started setting up these kinds of conversation for the series, “I Respectfully Disagree.” 

Miles Bryan


Aftab Khan and his family have lived in the Gillette area for over a hundred years, and a few years back the family opened a mosque there. Bret Colvin started a Facebook page called Stop Islam In Gillette and, after the mosque opened, he knocked on the door during services while a large number of people rallied behind him, some of them armed. The event was covered extensively in the local and the international news. Quickly, the online rhetoric between them grew ugly. 

But until now, they’ve never met in person.

As part of the 150th anniversary of the city of Laramie, an art group is working to create a community quilt in hopes of promoting civil discourse in the community. Laramie artists June Glasson and Adrienne Vetter recently started the Art and Action effort to teach people how to employ art in political engagement.

Asha Rangappa

The news surrounding the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election can at times seem overwhelming. To help break it all down, Asha Rangappa has been visiting Wyoming this week, giving talks in Jackson and Laramie about the investigation, social media, and democracy. 

Jewlicious

At the Matthew Shepard Symposium hosted last week at the University of Wyoming, protesters gathered outside with signs denouncing the LGBTQ community. The group was from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, and nearly 20 years ago, they also picketed Matthew Shepard’s funeral.

But inside the symposium, a former Westboro Church member was preparing to speak. Megan Phelps-Roper was there to explain that when she started engaging in civil dialogue over Twitter, her entire worldview changed.

Melodie Edwards

The country’s debate over immigration is escalating, and now it’s arrived in Wyoming. A private company wants to build an immigration detention center on the outskirts of Evanston on Wyoming’s western border. This was met with great celebration by many local folks like Uinta  County Commissioner Craig Welling. To him, it means jobs.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Back in November, conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager spoke to a packed audience at the University of Wyoming. After the applause died down a bit, he said, “I’m sure not all of you feel that enthusiastic about seeing me but nevertheless…”

And it was true. Many students weren’t enthusiastic for him to come, calling some of his talks racist and sexist. In fact, they argued university money shouldn’t be used to pay for such controversial speakers.

Anna Rader

As part of our series, “I Respectfully Disagree,” Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards journeyed into the heart of Wyoming’s coal country to the city of Gillette up in the northeast corner. Recently, it’s become an intensely divided community. In the last election, Wyoming went in greater percentage to Donald Trump than any other state, but Campbell County was one of the counties that supported Trump more than any other in Wyoming.

Tom Koerner, USFWS Mountain-Plains

 

Last winter, protestors packed committee meetings after lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment to allow the state of Wyoming to take over management of federal lands. Republican Senator Larry Hicks supported the idea, but he was open to other options. So, he reached out to Shane Cross and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and challenged them to come with a compromise.

Jeff Walker and Sara Flitner

During a campaign stop last year in Jackson, then-mayor Sara Flitner took a question from the audience. It was a challenging one from retired physician and consultant Jeff Walker, a staunch Republican. It was obvious from the get-go that the two didn't agree on much—especially on the election of Donald Trump—but they decided to keep talking anyway. As part of her series “I Respectfully Disagree,” Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards chatted with Flitner and Walker about some of the hard conversations they've been working through.

Sara Burlingame and Mike Lehman

 

Last year, after intense debate, the city of Cheyenne adopted an anti-discrimination resolution to protect members of the LGBT community and in this legislative session, lawmakers have tried and failed to pass state laws on both sides of the issue.

In the midst of all that, though, an unlikely friendship sprouted up.

Wikimedia Commons

In today’s political climate it can be difficult to even talk to a neighbor or a friend about contentious issues, not to mention trying to work across the aisle within Congress. Former Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe has built a career on bipartisanship and now serves on the board of directors for the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Wyoming Legislature

State Representatives Marti Halverson and Cathy Connolly are unlikely allies. Halverson has been a supporter of religious rights bills in the past, while Connolly is the state’s only openly gay lawmaker. But there’s one thing they do agree on: the need for an in-depth study Wyoming’s gender wage gap which reports say is the worst in the nation.