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A Four-Part Series Exploring Polarization in America

The nation’s social fabric is torn by partisan distrust, disinformation, exclusion, and coarsened public discourse. Our ties to one another have become perilously fragile as we grow more dived, gridlocked over social issues, race, health, and the economy.

In our four-part series, “Why It Matters: Uniting a Polarized Nation,” we explore our divisions, the lasting marks of polarization, and the future of democracy in America. This series aims to address the many layers of ideological polarization and approach the issues on a personal, community, historical, and societal levels with our virtual audience in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the ‘Show-Me’ state.

Last evening we debuted the first part of this series as we welcomed Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett, authors of “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again,” for a presentation of their book and an open discussion on polarization in America. For those who were unable to attend live, you can view the presentation here:

Partnering with KCUR public radio, we have issued a challenge to Missouri residents to use the #CivilityChallenge “conversation deck” to have an intentional (thirty-minute) conversation with someone with different ideological beliefs. We want to understand where you are coming from. We hope this part of the “Why It Matters” series helps Missourians build community and understanding among non-like-minded people. Join this challenge before March 1st, 2021 by visiting

The third-part of this series will debut on February 18th at 7:00 P.M. as Missouri Humanities Executive Director, Dr. Steve Belko convenes with fellow scholars Jay Sexton and Silvna Siddali to offer context and commentary about how ideological polarization has led to division and even war. A short film, “A Nation Divided: How One Decade Can Change Everything,” will premier and will be followed by a live panel discussion and Q&A.

The last part of this series is a 30-minute film, “Show-Me Statesmanship,” featuring a diverse group of former state lawmakers and officials sharing stories and observations of elected officials from past eras cooperating in bi-partisan fashion and treating their political foes with civility and respect. This film will debut in April, 2021, and dates and times will be released soon.

We invite you to join us for this series and engage in the power of life-long learning. Learn more, or register to attend these events, by visiting