Tackling Grand Challenges: A Window into Three A Community Table Conversations

Powerful conversations have unfolded across the country through A Community Table. Here you can get a peek into three of those conversations on:

  • Racial Justice During COVID-19
  • Engaging Veterans
  • Civic Participation at Different Stages of Life

As these glimpses illustrate, A Community Table offers an impactful way to connect through intentional, meaningful conversation.

These conversations come at a time when we urgently need to reflect and listen together. A time when we need to find ways to take action together.

A Community Table will end soon, but you still have time to host a conversation. We hope you will bring more voices to A Community Table.

Learn more about hosting here

A Community Table Conversation on Racial Justice During COVID-19

By: Thomas Walker, Director, Inclusion & Equity Education

Participating in A Community Table was a particularly powerful experience this spring.

Our office supports people in engaging across difference, in building understanding, relationships and coalitions through dialogue. This year, our amazing staff has hosted an MLK weekend student dialogue retreat, dialogue skills workshops, and a multi-week dialogue series via Zoom among other events. (We even helped prepare host resource materials for A Community Table!) And then one staff member pointed out that, for all the recruiting and supporting others in their connections, our full team had never actually dialogued with one another. So, we took our own grand challenge, and set aside time to explore how we each were experiencing COVID-19 in relation to our various identities.

The difference in tone, depth, and meaning compared to our regular meetings, tasks, and even casual office chat was incredible: Observations of how biased fears showed up in neighborhood children’s play. Worries for family members whose work was essential, risky, but not well-paid. Stuck at home with relatives and their challenging opinions. Reminders that masks are perceived differently by others depending on the wearer. Feelings of powerlessness as previous means of helping weren’t possible. Time for reflection on and commitment to new behaviors going forward. Realizations of new tech potentials for networking for change. Appreciating one another as people, not just colleagues.

Even for someone with decades in this work, and especially during this strange season, it was a wonderful reminder of the amazing power of simply pausing, genuinely asking, actively listening, and intentionally moving beyond the everyday.

Engaging Veterans Through A Community Table

By: Lexie Graham, DU History Department alumna

The DU History Department sponsored a vibrant, rewarding Community Table, highlighting the DU Veterans Legacy Program (VLP). The discussion included six veterans from different generations of service, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts; five student DU VLP researchers and History majors (Jessie Asay, Renissa Gannie, Geoffry Monteith, Caroline Rainbolt-Forbes and Laurel Schlegel); History alumna facilitator, Lexie Graham; and History faculty member Dr. Elizabeth Escobedo.

The team envisioned the Community Table to create intergenerational dialogue and give veterans a space to share their experiences. After almost two hours of conversation, it is safe to say those goals were met. Covering topics ranging from lessons learned during service, opportunities and challenges after service, and veterans’ personal and professional legacies, VLP student researchers engaged with veterans on an intimate level. Veterans were able to share their wisdom with students and several laughs and moments of understanding with fellow veterans who served during different times. The Community Table also allowed for veterans to help shape VLP research trajectories and the direction of future projects, and for students to understand better veteran issues, concerns, and struggles in the present day.

According to veteran participants, last night’s Community Table was a resounding success!

For more information on the VLP program, please see the DU VLP website: morethanaheadstone.org.

A Conversation about Civic Participation at Different Stages of Life

By: Cara DiEnno, Associate Director, CCESL

Sitting down in front of my laptop in my new makeshift home office on a Friday night isn’t *exactly* my idea of the best way to ring in the weekend. But I was sitting there due to my own making having organized an A Community Table conversation with my family. It was the best time we could find given that we were spread across five different time zones and two continents. And yet, as the blue glow of the screen lit up my face, I couldn’t help but smile as one by one each of my loved ones joined our virtual meeting room.

From my elderly parents quarantining for their health and safety and experiencing isolation unfamiliar to their typically packed post-retirement social life to my niece in Japan navigating quarantine in a tiny apartment, alone, in a country they love and which has embraced them, a culture they have grown fond of, and yet a place that isn’t quite home – while related by blood, we represented many different perspectives. Our little group of eight included someone born in every decade from the 1940s to the 1990s. So it only seemed fitting for the topic of our conversation to be civic participation at different ages and stages in life. I learned a great deal about my family that night, more than I ever thought I would.

One of my nieces, who is typically quite shy, had such rich and interesting stories to tell about their views of civic engagement through the lens of their prior work as a Resident Life Assistant at their alma mater – I wonder if I would have ever known these stories had it not been for the interesting prompts provided by DU Grand Challenges and DU Dialogues. My parents reflected on service they’re engaged in both inside and outside their retirement community. One of my sisters, feeling like she hadn’t contributed much by way of civic participation, expressed a sense of disappointment in herself, only to be reminded by the rest of us about her rich involvement in her children’s schools. My other sister spoke about her career and how, for her, her professional calling doing mobility work with veterans allowed her to engage in changing systems that ignited both her passion and her paid work. I absolutely loved the opportunity to connect with my family in this structured way. While communicating via Zoom wasn’t something we had ever done before the pandemic, we had had a few calls before this one. However, the structure of A Community Table brought our conversation and connection to one another to new places of exploration.

We found greater understanding about our shared family bonds as well as the individual paths each of us has forged (not just in physical location, but in how we each have contributed to the communities in which we are embedded). If there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s to ask the deep, meaningful questions I’m typically accustomed to asking my colleagues of my family as well. The answers may open new windows into the hearts and minds of those I cherish most.

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