Building Sustainable Peace | December 2020

A Note from Samar Ali

Dear Friends,

2020 has been a difficult year for many of us. In the midst of tragedy, division, and great loss, I have watched my fellow Americans act with resilience, compassion, and deep empathy. We have worked for each other. The COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 presidential election, and this economic crisis have tested our democracy. We could look at our current polarization and political violence as a symbol of failure. It is not. It is a symptom of larger systemic problems that we have always faced as a nation. In this same year, we grappled with these problems together. We witnessed and became a part of the most monumental civil rights movement of the 21st-century. This year, the largest number of Americans in history took a stake in our democracy, showing up to vote. We are on the precipice of change, but we must work for it. 

We remember that our country’s history does not begin or end with this year. We are all human beings – sharing this space with one another and working for the betterment of ourselves and each other. At Millions of Conversations, we recognize that we do not fall into unity. We do not fall into peace. Standing together, we embark on a decades-long process for the truth, reconciliation, and active participation that will help us build sustainable peace. 

In 2021, I am asking each of you to sign on to our seven steps for sustainable peace:

  1. Before we can do anything, we need to listen to one another. We do not need to come to an agreement. However, when we push ourselves to really hear each other, we are able to create space to see one another as human beings.
  2. When we humanize each other, we are able to tackle hatred and bigotry head on. The power of being human transcends the forces of division we face each day. 
  3. We recognize that our experiences are not everyone’s experiences. In sharing our stories and listening to one another as humans, we build deep empathy. We work for empathy that fosters a sense of belonging and helps us welcome one another into our lives.
  4. When we hear one another’s stories, we also open the possibility to explore common values. What do family, freedom, hard work, community, and honesty mean to you? Finding common values guides how we think about a shared future.
  5. We must commit to a shared future, together. Signing onto this new possibility gives each of us a stake in the game.
  6. Before we can actualize that future, we must recognize what keeps us from achieving that new reality. We must think truthfully about the harms that have been committed in our country throughout history, and we must forge a path of reconciliation. Truth and reconciliation will help us build sustainable peace.
  7. Sustainable peace is our goal. When we work for justice and engage in the other six steps I have outlined above, we will be ready to commit to a country that works for everyone. 

When we sign on to that first step, we pledge to listen to one another. We will listen deeply in 2021, recognizing that it is paving the ground for a new future.

In solidarity,

Samar Ali
Founding President and CEO, Millions of Conversations


The #PledgeToListen has taken off in these last few months of 2020. What will it look like in 2021?

  1. Continued advertisements in The Tennessean through January 2021. We encourage you to check out and share these new assets on Instagram if you haven’t already.
  2. Are you looking for ways to listen, but you aren’t sure where to start? Listening Practice: A #PTL Guidebook provides simple steps to help you begin your listening journey. 
  3. Would you like to have a longer conversation? In 2021, we will be hosting a monthly event in our Conversationalist Series. You can watch our recent conversation about the Second Amendment and submit ideas if you want to lead a conversation of your own.

Watch: Shall we burn bridges or build them?

As society feels more divided and polarized than ever, is now a time for burning bridges or building them? 

Join Shoulder to Shoulder for a riveting public conversation on this topic on Monday at 1 pm ET with Samar Ali & Wajahat Ali.

In a recent NYTimes piece, Wajahat Ali explains how he tried reaching out to Trump voters and it didn’t work. Samar Ali strongly believes that now is a time to listen to people of different opinions and views.

How do we think about the work ahead of us in 2021? What does America need right now, and what are our roles in those efforts to better American society?

Depolarization Summit in NPR

Hannah Allam of NPR’s Morning Edition attended our recent Depolarization Summit, hosted in partnership with former Mayor Charlottesville Mike Signer, the Fetzer Institute, and Vanderbilt University. Snippets from the Law & Military Panel were featured on air, and you can access the full text article to read more about political violence & polarization, the Depolarization Summit, and the incredible work of Kori Schake, Elizabeth Neumann, Mary McCord, Heather Hurlburt & Jason Dempsey. We also encourage you to access resources from the summit and recordings of each panel.

Have a Listen

As near the end of the year, we invite you to explore a podcast about exceptional Muslims and their career journeys as host Layla Shaikley (@laylool) shares glimpses into her life as a visibly Muslim venture backed tech founder. Muslims Doing Things invites doctors, lawyers, professors, and others to share their unique career journeys that led them to skincare, the Billboard Hot 100, professional activism, and more. Layla reminds us of the power that comes with listening to and sharing stories. 

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