Our Why It Matters: Uniting a Polarized Nation initiative explores the impact of ideological 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 divided, gridlocking over social issues, race, health, and the economy. 

In this series, we explore our divisions, the lasting marks of polarization, and the future of democracy in America. “Why It Matters” 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.

 “The Upswing” Author Talk with Robert D. Putnam and co-Author Shaylyn Romney Garrett

On January 14th, 2021 we hosted a virtual talk featuring the authors of “The Upswing”. Robert D. Putnam is a nationally honored humanities, Harvard professor, and author of the best seller, “Bowling Alone.” At the event, Putnam and his co-author Shaylyn Romney Garrett examined deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse, and a fraying social fabric. Watch the recording to learn how American came together a century ago and how we can do it again.


Missouri Humanities, in partnership with KCUR and American Amplified, issued a challenge to Missourians to have an intentional conversation with someone who has different ideological believes using #CivilityChallenge conversation cards. If you received a pack of conversation cards, tell us about your experience by emailing ashley@mohumanities.org or share your story and lessons learned on social media with #CivilityChallenge @Mohumanities

With our partners, we are furthering civil discourse and community engagement at a time of dramatically high political and social tensions through a program called “New Rules of Engagement: The Political Conversation You’ve Never Had Before”. Tune into KCUR on 3/18, and 3/25 to learn more and hear conversations between Missourians. (If you are outside of the KCUR listening area, please note that you can listen on their website.)

 A Nation Divided: How One Decade Can Change Everything

On February 18th, 2021, Dr. Steve Belko convened with fellow scholars Jay Sexton and Silvna Siddali discussed polarization that led to division and the Civil War. View the film and discussion by clicking the links below.

 “Show-Me Statesmanship”

On April 29th, 2021 we premiered “Show Me Statesmanship”, a film featuring former Missouri elected officials and political experts discussing how polarization and partisanship impact state government. Featured guests included Bob Priddy and Senators Charlie Shields, Rita Heard Days, Scott Rupp, Jolie Justus, and Jeff Smith. 

Watch the documentary and be inspired by stories of Missouri Senators who bucked the negative trends and cooperated in a bipartisan fashion; treated their political foes with civility and respect; and made and kept friends across the partisan divide in the General Assembly.

This program was funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.