New civic movement encourages people to practice curiosity, empathy and courage
In time for New Year’s resolutions, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University has partnered with Starts With Us, a civic movement that aims to empower U.S. residents to improve how they relate to each other across lines of difference by practicing curiosity, empathy and courage. Starts With Us is supported by more than 100 thought leaders from academia, business, sports, entertainment and community organizations. Its founder is Daniel Lubetzky, who has 30 years of experience bridging divides between citizens in the Middle East and is known as the founder of KIND Snacks.
“The Alda Center is proud to be part of this effort to encourage people to treat each other with empathy, and to extend grace and understanding to one another,” said Laura Lindenfeld, executive director of the Alda Center and dean of the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism. “Using empathy to create genuine human connection is fundamental to how we approach science communication, and we’ve seen its impact in helping people from all walks of life to engage with science. Starts With Us encourages all of us to extend that same compassion and understanding to everyone we meet, every day.”
Starts With Us is kicking off with an invitation to join the movement. The campaign’s website, startswith.us, and its Instagram content, @startswithus, encourages people to pledge to listen more and judge less. The pledge ends with another invitation: contact someone with whom you don’t agree and ask that person to co-sign.
“When I immigrated to the United States as a teenager, I was struck by Americans’ ability to forcefully debate an issue and then head to dinner as friends. In the past few years our culture has replaced this special combination of humility and humanity with harshness and a lack of forgiveness,” said Lubetzky. “This is not only harmful to our communities and daily life, but also undermines the social fabric on which our liberal democracy stands.”
To spread the word, Starts With Us is building its footprint on social media, sharing tools, games, quizzes and other content to promote the development of skills like introspection, critical thinking, active listening, non-judgmental thinking and nuanced communication. The Alda Center was one of the partners to help develop the content, along with Open Mind and Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
To learn more and take the pledge, visit startswith.us or follow @startswithus on Instagram.