As we’ve all seen, polarization is weakening our nation’s ability to work together in critical ways. When it comes to our national security, public health, civic fabric, or economy, our deep divides have become a profound national challenge.
It doesn’t need to be this way – in fact, research shows that diversity can be a great strength. At Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), we like to describe America as a “potluck nation,” a place where diverse communities can bring their distinctive contributions, and everyone feasts.
But reaping the positive benefits from our diversity takes intentionality and effort, creating meaningful opportunities to come to know one another and find common ground. These local “bridgebuilding” efforts are the key to transforming our diversity into a powerful asset and creating a stronger, united country.
In that spirit, Congressional leaders across partisan lines are working with one another to take concrete, practical steps to support local bridgebuilding efforts. On February 25, 2022, led by Rep. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Andy Barr, nine Republicans and nine Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced the Building Civic Bridges Act, an groundbreaking proposal to establish a nonpartisan pilot program within AmeriCorps to support community civic bridgebuilding. The co-sponsoring Congressional members include conservative Republicans, progressive Democrats, and everyone in between – a true representation of our nation’s diversity, all committed to the importance of bringing diverse communities together and strengthening our nation.
Under this legislative proposal, AmeriCorps would provide federal funding for local efforts to build relationships and bridge the metaphorical divides that keep us apart, as well as train AmeriCorps members to utilize bridging skills in their service communities. These efforts recognize and build on the momentum of an expanding field of bridging organizations, a set of 300+ institutions committed to healing America’s deep divisions (including IFYC and Millions of Conversations, among many more!)
The Building Civic Bridges Act makes investments in our nation’s ability to engage in this essential work. By partnering with the bridgebuilding field and investing in concrete pathways for all Americans to bridge divides, we can see a path forward out of the polarization limiting our potential for peace in too many ways.
Mary Ellen Giess
Vice President of Strategic Initiatives
Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)