As part of Moraine Valley Community College’s pledge to The Democracy Commitment, the college is hosting the ActOut 2.0 Conference for Civic Engagement on Friday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Moraine Business and Conference Center, on the main campus, 9000 W. College Pkwy., Palos Hills. Community members are welcome to attend this day focused on civil discourse. Registration is free.
The theme of the conference is “Our Common Ground: A Space for Civil Discourse.” Attendees will have several opportunities to learn and practice this important piece of the democratic process, including attending workshops on a variety of topics and viewing student posters about civic engagement.
Verdis Robinson, the national coordinator of The Democracy Commitment, is the keynote speaker. Robinson was an assistant professor of history and African-American studies at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, before joining The Democracy Commitment, a national community college initiative with the goal of giving every graduate of an American community college an education in democracy. Moraine Valley is one of the founding members of this initiative and integrates service opportunities, advocacy, guest lectures, and faculty development into its teaching and learning.
The conference agenda also features an Elected Officials Panel Discussion following lunch. Elected officials will discuss what led them to become advocates, how they work with constituents they disagree with on important issues and advice they can offer about participating in the civic process beyond voting. The agenda will conclude with Hot Topics: An Exercise in Civil Discourse, during which attendees will get the opportunity to practice civil discourse with people at their table.
Two discussions may be very useful to Oak Lawn residents more than students at the college. One is “The View from the Other Side of the Fence: Tips for Influencing Public Officials from a Politician.” The presenter is Hickory Hills Alderman Tom McAvoy, who will offer frank talk about what makes elected public officials “tick” and how to influence them regarding legislation, public policies and establishing new (or improving existing) government services. McAvoy’s presentation will emphasize local politics and government. Attendees will hear keys to understanding the differences between what politicians want most and practical ways to position yourself or your issue to get their attention and eventually (possibly) getting them to do what you want.
A second presentation is entitled “Learning to Listen to Opposing Views”, which is certainly needed if you watch or read the media or even participate in Facebook discussions. Politicians could also use this course. The presenter is Kevin Navratil, a Political Science Assistant Professor at Moraine Valley. According to the program’s description, “Civil discourse, whether online, in the media or face-to-face, is often afflicted with toxic and polarizing dialogue that only serves to further polarize and divide people. This presentation will apply lessons from Celeste Headlee’s TED Talks on communication to improve politically oriented conversations with the aim of helping people learn to listen and understand opposing views.”
For more information about the conference, including workshop descriptions, and to register, visit morainevalley.edu/actout.