A Lesson in Civility

Nov 2, 2015

Think for a moment about the person with whom you share the least in common, when it comes to your beliefs. Now, imagine having coffee with that person, not just once, but many times over a period of two years.

Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader
Credit John Pemble / IPR

Donna Red Wing is Executive Director of One Iowa, an organization that advocates on behalf of the state's LGBTQ population. Bob Vander Plaats is CEO of The Family Leader, an organization that advocates for, "Christ-like leadership" in the home, church and government. The two have often found themselves on opposite sides of issues like marriage equality. So it might surprise you to learn that they've become friends, even embracing when they meet on TV sets, as they're being asked to take opposing viewpoints on an issue.

Donna Redwing of One iowa
Credit John Pemble / IPR

It all began when Red Wing approached Vander Plaats at a political event and extended an invitation for coffee.

"I thought I could make the grand gesture, he would never say yes, and I would be done," said Red Wing. In fact Vander Plaats did say yes, but thought Redwing, "would never follow up on it."

The first meeting was at a coffee shop in Ames, and it has resulted in an ongoing civil dialog between the two and what both call some "tough conversations." Red Wing says she never expected and still doesn't expect to change Vander Plaats' views about marriage, but they have found common ground on other issues, like human trafficking and education.

Now they're taking their conversations public in an effort to challenge others to reach out to someone who doesn't share their beliefs for a civil conversation. In this special edition of River to River, recorded at the Des Moines Social Club, host Ben Kieffer talks with Red Wing and Vander Plaats about what they each have learned through this unique relationship, and what others could learn as well.