"Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." – Winston Churchill
The Patterson Foundation strengthens the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address mutual aspirations, foster wide participation, and encourage learning and sharing.
Identifying mutual aspirations requires communication and connection, goals which can seem impossible if we believe we are living in a divided nation.
How can we find our way to understanding? Where can we find common ground? Who has left us a blueprint for creating the trust that transcends differing opinions and ideologies? We may find some answers by looking back 157 years.
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass provide us a powerful example of two men with different opinions and agendas coming together against all odds to produce positive change.
In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, two men met for the first time. Though both resided in the North, their ideological differences were stark. One, a radical with a fiery spirit, called for immediate change and racial equality. The other was more cautious. While opposed to slavery, he was a patriot intent on preserving the Union.
One man was black, a famous abolitionist, the most photographed man of his time. The other was white, an embattled president who won his election with 38.9% of the vote—the poorest showing by any winning presidential candidate in American History.
By the time Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass met, Douglass had made his disapproval of Lincoln well known. Yet, his love of country and his rage at the unfair treatment of black soldiers in the Union Army inspired him to go to the White House, without an appointment, to seek an audience with the president.
Abraham Lincoln was not afraid to hear from those who disagreed with him. He welcomed the opportunity to listen to people with differing views.
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect, a one-act play by Beth Duda, with spoken word poetry by Cedric Hameed, was originally presented in February of 2020 by The Patterson Foundation in partnership with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. The play's performances were followed by audience discussions as part of Honoring & Onward, a celebration of The Patterson Foundation's first decade of service.
To bring the inspiration and hope of these two men to a wider audience, The Patterson Foundation is hosting a virtual viewing of the play, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect, on December 1, followed by a panel discussion with the playwright and members of the creative team.
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, A Walk to Respect encapsulates everything The Patterson Foundation hopes the community can glean from Aspirations to Actions (A2A). Ever-learning and ever-evolving, A2A began with the idea that our community would be stronger if more individuals had the skills to convene civil, listening-heavy community conversations. To meet on even ground to discuss topics from different perspectives while discovering shared aspirations and a way to move forward. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were not two peas in a pod. They had different ideologies and strategies for achieving what they believed was in our country's best interest. But guided by a deep mutual respect, their spirited conversations can model a more productive way to debate, find common ground, and, most importantly, deepen trust between neighbors.
The new guided discussion groups opening after the December 1, 2020, digital screening of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass will explore the play's themes using two avenues. For those more comfortable in a discussion setting, an "academic" track. For those eager to express through art, an "artistic" track. The incomparable Ben Tollefson and spoken-word poet, Cedric Hameed, will lead both tracks in roughly five meetings. These discussion groups offer a new way for Aspirations to Actions to connect with community and foster new perspectives.
Register for the 7pm December 1, 2020, digital showing of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, A Walk to Respect using this link. We look forward to engaging with you!