The Potential of Personal Connections

November 21, 2022

Photograph of students holding hands in a chain across a stage with their hands raised

From the 2016-17 Arroyo High School Rite of Passage (ROP) Culminating Presentation, “We Are All Different, Yet We Are Equal. Difference Is Beautiful”

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This recent New York Times Opinion piece about the New Pluralists offers perspective on how vital it is for people to come together across their differences, and see themselves as part of the great orchestra of humanity.  These New Pluralists are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to fight polarization by funding face-to-face interactions among people across political, racial and religious divides, under the premise that,

fixing what is broken in American democracy requires more than changing voter ID laws or the shape of our congressional districts… It requires forging deep personal connections that will change hearts and minds and ultimately American culture itself.

According to the article, philosopher Horace Kallen coined the term “cultural pluralism” in the early 1900’s to encourage Americans to recognize and value the unique cultures of immigrants coming from many countries, and to see America as an orchestra, where distinct sounds join harmoniously.

This time last year we published the newsletter below, offering four questions to stir spirited conversations among family and friends at the Thanksgiving table, to help find positive connections, even amid strained political or other differences.

We wish you and all with whom you connect a very Happy Thanksgiving, and that your holiday interactions with our suggested questions, or those that you create, generate beautiful sounds of music.

With appreciation and best regards,
Sandy Sohcot, Director

From Futility to Possibilities

Inspired by the Grateful Dead’s Playing in the Band 🎶

November 2021

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I’ve heard the Grateful Dead perform Playing in the Band many, many times.  Recently, while listening to a live-concert version, I heard one particular phrasing in a whole different light:


Some folks look for answers;
Others look for fights.

“Playing in the Band (Live in Veneta, Oregon 8/27/72)” • Grateful Dead

I could not help but reflect on how these words capture our current state of public conversation.  I know I’m not alone in feeling a sense of discouragement and futility.  Afterall, the work of TWAICB is about raising awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and how its 30 Articles can provide the standards to be met by social justice efforts to rights wrongs, and as inspiration for our day-to-day interactions to treat all with respect and dignity.  Yet, every day we see in the news, social media, and in the streets, examples of hate-based, polarizing rhetoric seemingly looking for fights, and I wonder if there is any space to embrace and look for questions and answers to support the fundamental premise of the UDHR, as expressed in the first clause of the UDHR Preamble:
UDHR Preamble: Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…To help get from futility to possibility, I re-read the NY Times Opinion piece by John Lewis (July 30, 2020).  His words enforced my own conviction that it is vital to stay hopeful and committed to doing what we can to forge the knowledge, positive connections and collaborations that are so necessary to nurture peace and get beyond bigotry, violence, aggression and war.

In the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt’s meaningful idea that universal human rights begin “in small places close to home,” we offer the following four questions as possible starts to positive, spirited discussions with family and friends during and around Thanksgiving, where there is no need to find the right answers or look for fights:

  1. Discussion questionsWhat role does the tradition of Thanksgiving have in these current times?

  2. What is the relevance of sharing our longstanding, favorite Thanksgiving foods and other rituals at our gatherings?

  3. Why is it important to share these rituals with family and friends?

  4. What is it about these times that gives us hope for the future?

We hope the spirit of Thanksgiving offers you and yours the opportunity to experience kindness, love and joy, all healthy ingredients to sustain our positive individual and collective efforts.

With appreciation and best regards,
Sandy Sohcot, Director

Featured Resources

Connecting to the themes presented in this newsletter, here are some additional resources.

Before You Act,
Do This

Before You Act, Do This

Resources for fact-checking information and evaluating sources.

Read more…

Stories and Activities from Ms. Webb’s 1st Grade Class

 Stories and Activities from Ms. Webb’s 1st Grade Class

Stories and activities from children’s literature that look at social-emotional learning, critical thinking and history, and social justice and human rights education.

Read more…