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Tallahassee Democrat: Seven projects picked for Knight Foundation grants

Seven projects will get a share of $174,400 in grants from the Knight Foundation Fund via the Community Foundation of North Florida. Selected from more than 40 applications, the winning projects were picked for how well they aligned with the target goals of the Knight Foundation, which endeavors to enhance communities through unique partnerships and efforts.

Here are the 2015 winners:

The Village Square – Group strives to foster civic engagement and conversation on local, state and national issues, despite political affiliations and perspectives.

Read the rest of the article at Tallahassee.com.

Context Florida: Our special guest Clay Jenkinson on “Restoring the American republic, beginning in Tallahassee”

Jenkinson-outside The Village Square in Tallahassee hosted humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson on October 15th for a live audience taping of the nationally syndicated show The Thomas Jefferson Hour. To learn more about our program and listen to an audio of the program CLICK HERE. To look at pictures of the program CLICK HERE. The below piece by Mr. Jenkinson ran in ” Context Florida and the print edition of the Tallahassee Democrat.

As the 21st century finds its rhythm, and the 2016 presidential contest begins to take up most of our public space, it seems clear to me that we have two political parties in the United States, but they are both thoroughly Hamiltonian.We have what might be called the “greater Hamiltonian Party” and the “lesser Hamiltonian party.” The obscene dominance of money, political action committees, lobbyists, fundraisers, and unrestrained attack ads has essentially disenfranchised the vast majority of American citizens.

In a world where there is no longer any real accountability, our political discourse has spiraled down into the gutter. A citizen from Jupiter, or any rational American, forced to watch nothing but Fox and MSNBC 24 hours per day, would soon despair of the American experiment.

What is to be done?

My view is that we need a Jeffersonian party or (better yet) a Jeffersonian movement in America. Jefferson believed that a republic could not survive without a high level of civility. In his first inaugural address, after a hotly contested election, Jefferson wrote two passages that every American should stop to consider.

First he said, “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” Read all »

Tallahassee Democrat: Village Square’s God Squad is on duty for lunch today

fff-eventThe communal hall in the elegantly appointed First Baptist Church in downtown Tallahassee is packed with noontime listeners this mid-September Friday. They are also lunchers, filling their plastic plates with tacos as they prepare to listen to ‘The God Squad’, five Tallahassee faith leaders perched on stools, who, as they have monthly for the last five years will talk about those places where religion, politics and societal issues bounce against each other like so many boats on a stormy sea. For this Faith.Food.Friday program, the crowd of nearly 200 people seems ready to eat it up. Today’s program (Friday, Oct. 9) is on Religious Freedom and will be held at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church. Tickets for food are $8 with reservations and $10 at the door.

Read the full article in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Tallahassee Democrat: Food, Conversation a Plenty at the Longest Table

longest-table-oct-4Under the sweeping canopy of live oaks, the 350-feet long table, bridging two downtown blocks, was filled with trays of brownies, berries piled atop cheesecake squares and powdered snow-white desserts. Sweet tea, Southern barbecue and conversation were plentiful.

The Longest Table, Tallahassee’s first community-wide dinner party of sorts, asked nearly 500 local politicians, faith leaders, educators, agency representatives and residents from all neighborhoods and backgrounds to go beyond small talk and discuss what was most at stake in their city.

A reel of paper rolled the entire length of the table, filled with tough conversation-starters, questions like, “What’s the biggest challenge facing our community?” and the fill-in-the blank, “Race relations in our community are ___.” to spark honest dialogue.

For many attendees, the event offered an opportunity to examine how Tallahassee has evolved in the last decade.

Read the entire article at Tallahassee.com.

Village Square co-founder Bryan Desloge in the Tallahassee Democrat: Proud to meet with Pope and President

desloge-squareThere was a time in our nation’s not too distant past when meeting with the President of the United States or even the Pope himself would be seen – without question – as an honor and a true privilege.

Yet, as I made the humbling journey to our nation’s capital to attend a meeting of both Pope Francis and President Obama, I felt somewhat uneasy and, frankly, a little worried about how this visit would be received by those in the body politic.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Read the entire editorial at Tallahassee.com.

Tallahassee Democrat: Tallahassee in “Fast Forward”

squares-ff-2015Byron Block writes in today’s Tallahassee Democrat:

If you’ve been struggling to keep up with all that is taking shape in Tallahassee and wonder what’s coming next, hold on. You’re not alone.

Tallahassee is experiencing a spurt of growth that is changing the face of retail, housing, entertainment, neighborhood life and more. To help residents upgrade their scorecards and get a glimpse of what’s ahead, the Village Square is hosting “Our Town, Fast Forward” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s part civics and part sporting event,” Liz Joyner, founder and executive director of The Village Square said. “This is the most popular program we do all year long.”

The free event is being held at St. John’s Episcopal Church; co-partners are the Tallahassee Democrat/Tallahassee.com, Leadership Tallahassee and Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI).

Read the entire article online HERE.

Tallahassee Democrat: Town hall format allows for face-to-face interaction

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat:

Tallahassee-Democrat-logo-squareWilnick SaintCharles, 34, was a student at Florida A&M University when Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was student government president, but he never took the time to discuss issues.

SaintCharles, who stayed in Tallahassee and now works at Citizen Insurance Corp., got that chance Thursday night while attending the annual “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” event hosted by the Village Square at St. John’s Church. Nearly 80 people attended the event that drew several local elected and appointed government leaders.

Read the entire article at Tallahasssee.com.

Tallahassee Democrat: Join the Town Hall

If you’re in Tallahassee and want to attend Thursday night’s Tallahassee Town Hall, click here.

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat (print edition only):

rachel redcoatWhen it comes to getting things done in a country, there were actually some advantages to having a king.

If a kingdom had a problem, a good king could send for the most brilliant scholars in the land, commission them to scribble mathematical formulas into the wee hours, apply his royal intellect and issue an edict. Of course, there were the bad kings and the heads that rolled… which, more or less, gets us to where the American story begins.

As they went about the business of building a country without a king, our founding fathers had more than a little trouble agreeing with each other. Democracy turns out to be a pretty sloppy business. But no matter how unpleasant they found it, the framers never had the luxury to avoid the difficult conversations.

There was every reason to think they would fail – the notion that a diverse people could self-govern was a nearly insane idea at the time. Still, the founders did more that believe we could muddle our way through our diversity; they bet our future that diversity of opinion could become a strength for their new country.

They designed our form of government around that bet.

In America, political foes become partners in ensuring “deliberation and circumspection” as they engage in order to govern. This clashing of opinion creates a competition of ideas that deepens thinking, sharpens solutions & moderates extremes. James Madison saw the Bill of Rights as a “mere parchment barrier” compared to the power of this factionalism to check the power of the majority and insure freedom for the minority.

So, despite the differences between the framers and the odds against them, in this new country the king was no longer the seat of power – it was now the humble town square. This was the unlikely place where our first citizens went about the business of building a country “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Almost 250 years later, that’s exactly what you’ll find Thursday night, when the Village Square, the Tallahassee Democrat and Leadership Tallahassee join forces to host the fourth annual Tallahassee Town Hall. It’s free and open to the public (go to tallahassee.tothevillagesquare.org to print your ticket). You’re invited to bring take-out and a drink, roll up your sleeves and dive into our local conversation of democracy.

Facilitated by the publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat, Skip Foster, the program is at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown.

Joining the panel are Leon County Commissioners Mary Ann Lindley, Nick Maddox and Kristin Dozier; and from the City of Tallahassee, Mayor Andrew Gillum and Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

The program will be live-streamed at Tallahassee.com and you can even tweet your questions from home – in your slippers if you like (a cool freedom George Washington might not have imagined).

Sure, navigating hometown democracy probably isn’t your first choice on how to spend an evening. But if you come by St. John’s Thursday night, we hope you’ll take a moment to consider that you’ll be at the very heart of what makes us America.

A kind and intelligent ruler might not do a bad job deciding how things should run in our hometown, but there is no king; there will be no writ from on high. It’s up to people like us in this place we call home to care about the city we share.


Liz Joyner is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Village Square, dedicated to reviving civil discourse across the partisan divide. Created in Tallahassee in 2006, the Village Square now has five locations nationally. Contact Liz at liz@tothevillagesquare.org


IF YOU GO info:

OUR TOWN Tallahassee Town Hall
Thursday, February 19th
5:30 to 7:30 pm
Free and open to the public
St. John’s Episcopal Church
211 N Monroe Street, downtown Tallahassee
For more information or to reserve your seat http://www.tallahassee.tothevillagesquare.org
Watch livestream at Tallahassee.com
Stay for dessert and coffee after the program

Antelope Valley Times: Palmdale awarded Village Square grant

Palmdale-city-logo-300x300News from our Village Square Davenport Institute grantee, the City of Palmdale!

PALMDALE – The City of Palmdale has been named as one of two cities in California to receive a 2014 Village Square Grant through Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute.

Along with Palo Alto, Palmdale will receive services and expenses valued at $15,000 through the Village Square’s “Dinner at the Square” program, which is designed to improve the way residents in diverse communities engage with one another.

Read the entire article online at the AV Times.

Welcome to our newest Village Square at Broward College

Broward College logoTomorrow night our newest Village Square location launches in Ft. Lauderdale under the leadership of Broward College. We are thrilled to be partnering with them.

From South Florida Business Journal:

Broward College and Village Square, a non-partisan public educational forum, are hosting a series of events designed to spark fact-based debates on a variety of topics, beginning with Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.

The first event, is Nov. 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Huizenga Pavilion, 201 SW 5th Ave, Fort Lauderdale.

Read the whole article online here.


national-journalIf you missed it earlier, there is a MUST READ piece in the National Journal written by Brian Resnik about what the Village Square does. Here’s an excerpt about the Village Square:

When people consider themselves to be part of the same team, they do a much better job of dropping their combative stance and processing the world through a less partisan lens.

“You’re not trying to turn liberals into conservatives or vice versa,” Katz says. “But the only way to get people to see the other point of view, even if they don’t agree with it, is to do it in person.”

Katz and his fellow organizers are relying on people finding a common humanity, and in so doing, he is playing to one of the brain’s great strengths: The same tribal cognitive processes that make it easy to turn people against one another can also be harnessed to bring them together.

When people consider themselves to be part of the same team, be it as Village Square participants, as fellow Americans, or even—one might dream—as fellow members of Congress, they do a much better job of dropping their combative stance and processing the world through a less partisan lens.

And we make those identity jumps all the time, as our brains are wired to let us do.

Read the entire, smart, important National Journal piece online.

Kansas City Star: Village Square chapter in KC will hold its first dinner and public conversation Thursday

blue starFrom The Kansas City Star:

Think of the Village Square as a Southern front porch or a small town’s diner counter — a place where folks can come together and talk civilly about community and world issues.

That’s what Allan Katz, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, intends to bring back across the country with the launch of Village Square events. Katz is a co-founder of Village Square, a national organization started seven years ago in Tallahassee, Fla., as a way to restore civil discourse to national politics. The organization’s headquarters are at UMKC.

On Thursday, Katz, a UMKC alum and a former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, and Kansas City’s newly formed chapter of Village Square will have its first local event — Dinner at the Square at 6 p.m. at Kansas City’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

Read the entire article in the Kansas City Star.

Mark Schlakman: Get past extreme partisan politics

From Sunday’s Tallahassee Democrat, Mark Schlakman of FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights writes about extreme partisanship and mentions The Village Square:

Closer to home, The Village Square, a project conceived by former Tallahassee city commissioner and U.S. ambassador to Portugal Allan Katz and spearheaded by Liz Joyner, has drawn national acclaim for its efforts to bridge the partisan divide. It was cited by Olympia Snowe, a Republican and former U.S. senator from Maine, who identified both The Village Square and No Labels among eight noteworthy organizations across the nation for their engagement on point.

Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.