Have A Great Weekend

A few highlights from the week that was.

We launched CtK 2.0!

  • Last weekend, CtK alumni representing all four cohorts got together to work on furthering CtK's mission. It was amazing to be back in a room full of Loyal Antagonists working on a common goal! We wanted to recap for our entire, extended group of Campfire Alums what we talked about and where we're going next--with your help!

  • Click here for a full summary.

A recent report on polarization.

  • Here at CtK, we’ve got some thoughts on why an experiment like this doesn’t work, and why Campfire does.

  • Ezra Klein writing in Vox makes a point that we can get behind: "The studies that show intergroup contact reduces polarization and suspicion also show that that contact needs to have certain features — it needs to be positive, there need to be shared goals, there ideally should be a reason for cooperation."

  • We’ll be building on this point in the coming days, keep your eye out for more.

Bishop Garrison profiled in The Bridge. Congratulations, Bishop!

West Wingers topping book lists again! O Magazine’s list of 14 political books to read before you go to the polls: each one will help you make a more informed vote.

As always, we want to remind you to vote! We’re t-minus 18 days until the midterms and most places have opened early voting. (Look at the lines to vote early in GA!) Please make a plan and get out to VOTE!

CtK 2.0! Alums are making it happen.

CtK.Campfire Alums continue to cultivate the karass!

Last weekend, CtK alumni representing all four cohorts got together to work on furthering CtK's mission. It was amazing to be back in a room full of Loyal Antagonists working on a common goal! We wanted to recap for our entire, extended group of Campfire Alums what we talked about and where we're going next--with your help!

Alumni Engagement 

CtK invited each of you to Campfire for the amazing skills and vision you bring to the table. We want you to stay engaged!

Cohort Ambassadors will be the first line in connecting all cohort alums to the mission and overall CtK goals, events, and upcoming projects. The retreat team generated a description of CtK Ambassadors. Want to become one? Sign up!

We're gathering testimonials so that you can share in your own words what CtK and Campfire mean to you in your life and work. We've received some powerful expressions--and we want to add yours to our website! Please write a testimonial and click here to mail it to us directly.

And, last but not least, Save the Date! You should have received a save-the-date about next year's alumni event. Thanks to alumni feedback, we plan to host the Annual Alumni Event during the last weekend in March every year. Put it on your calendars, we hope to see you there! 

Attending CtK.Campfire was one of the best decisions of my personal and professional life. It is a weekend that cannot be adequately described - it must be experienced. CtK has made me learn and grow in ways I couldn’t have foreseen, but that ultimately make me a better colleague, spouse, person and - ultimately - a loyal antagonist.
— Brittany Adams (Cohort IV)

Funding and Donations

Already, CtK is having an impact!

We are still a young organization with a big idea that requires trust and vision and long-term buy-in. We have an exceptionally energized and passionate group of alumni and supporters. But we'll need to continue to grow our funding and we need your help to do it

Throughout the non-profit and political landscape, we see examples of how gifts big and small combine to ensure organizations and campaigns remain vibrant and get their message out. This is where you come in! We rely on our alums for donations, connections to funders, and grants that you help us identify and apply for. 

Please consider making a donation! 

If you know of philanthropists, organizations, or grants--or anyone you are aware of who may be interested in furthering our mission--please let us know!

p.s--If your company has a matching grant program, don't forget to apply for your match if that's available to you!

Marketing & Communications

We want to spread the word about what we're doing and bring more awareness to the importance of Loyal Antagonists! 

  • We created a Key Messages document that will fuel future communications. Please use it when you're talking about CtK!

  • We want to generate joint op-eds from Loyal Antagonists. If you're interested in participating, please let us know!

  • We want to amplify our social media presence. We'll be adding more original content and updates on the successes of our alums. Keep us up to date on your accomplishments! Please consider sharing CtK with your networks.

We're also considering a prototype for a podcast (working title: The Loyal Antagonists), based on the spectrum exercises we do at Campfire. If you're knowledgeable about podcasts or interested in participating, please let us know!

Have A Great Weekend: On Gratitude

‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.
— Alice Walker

This week, we’re counting our blessings.

We want to instantiate a posture of gratitude into the work that we do here at CtK, so we are coopting the weekly Have A Great Weekend to launch another weekly feature on the blog: On Gratitude.

It might be easier to point out what is wrong in the world. To take aim at the shortcomings and failings that seem to be growing bigger and louder. But we want to live out of a sense of abundance, not scarcity. We want to follow Lori’s example to live as if.

That’s where gratitude comes in. It helps us to see the good in the world, the possibility in each other, and the potentiality in the future. More and more research shows that gratitude improves happiness and has health benefits (check out what the experts have to say here, here, and here, though there were dozens more links we could have added).

We’re kicking it off right now. Here are our CtK thank yous for this week:

Thank you to Chelsea Brewer!

It was her birthday. Instead of asking for gifts for herself, Chelsea asked for gifts in support of CtK. By rallying her community far and wide, she raised over $700 in support of CtK.Campfire! Thank you, Chelsea! We’re so grateful for the support and the new awareness of our important mission.

Chelsea w_ Lori.jpg

Chelsea and Lori

Thank you, Chelsea, for supporting CtK and inspiring others to do the same!

Thank you to Brittany Adams, Sean Carlson, Nick Dawson, Keegan Goudiss, Katie Harbath, Laura Leigh Oyler, Crystal Patterson, Jen Simon, Anton Vuljaj, and Beau Wright!

This exceptional crew spent two days last weekend at CtK HQ working to launch CtK 2.0. They looked at ways to keep Campfire magic going, created an annual Alumni Retreat (Alums: save the date for March!), developed a plan for podcasts, book events, and policy roundtables, and reminded us of the incredible capacity of Campfire Alums. We left the weekend supercharged and excited for the next phase of CtK!

Keep your eye out for the summary of their work, coming to all Campfire Alums next week!

And one last thank you to take you into your weekend…

Thank you to everyone who has come out recently—Lori and Nick even managed to be together on two coasts in two weeks!—to a CtK Happy Hour!

Have A Great Weekend

We head into the weekend of two minds:

Dismayed that the country feels riven in the face of Friday’s cloture and Saturday’s confirmation votes on Judge Kavanaugh and elated that CtK.Campfire Alums are gathering in DC on Friday and Saturday to take CtK’s work to the next level. Maybe the contrast is appropriate, maybe these two days teach us how to hold the tension of the opposites.

So, we’re asking you as loyal antagonists: How are you managing this time? How do you view the world? How are you balancing optimism and cynicism? How are you holding the tension of the opposites?

As always, there is good news in the world.

We’re celebrating the news that National Voter Registration Day was a huge success. Don’t forget: Fourteen states have voter registration deadlines of October 9th—and the rest of the states come up thereafter. Register to vote! Help someone else register. Make a plan to get to the polls and make sure to get your friends to vote, too.

Congratulations and thank you to CtK.Campfire Alums who continue to make a difference in the world:

We always want to highlight the work of CtK.Campfire Alums; please let us know about your recent successes and adventures so we can share them with the broader Karass!

As we head into the weekend, we hope you find time to reflect, rest, replenish, and raise your voice. Our republic is counting on the active and positive engagement of each of us. Thank you for doing your part and for taking up the important work of cultivating the karass.

Have A Great Weekend

This week, it seemed like empathy might be in short supply. But we continued to look for signs of grace in a heavy world and recommitted ourselves to loyal antagonism, challenging as it sometimes is.

We found examples of transpartisan collaboration nearly everywhere on Tuesday as people rallied for National Voter Registration Day.

On Wednesday, West Wingers hit bookstores. CtK.Campfire Alums Heather Foster and Julie Rodriguez had their essays featured among those from 18 members of the Obama Administration. Added bonus: it was named one of NY Post’s Best Books of the Week!

On Thursday, just as hyperpartisanship seemed to reach peak levels, CtK’ers on the West Coast got a visit from Lori Brewer Collins. New alliances were forged. Old friendships were rekindled. The Campfire burns a little brighter and continues to add members. (Thanks to Sam Corcos for hosting a gathering in San Francisco!)

How do we recap Thursday’s SCOTUS hearings? This blogger spent Friday morning talking to her loyal antagonist, parsing opposing perspectives, and trying to assemble viewpoints from writers across the political spectrum:





There is no question that this week’s hearings left our country feeling more starkly divided than ever — and emotionally raw. We continue to believe that having faith in one another, supporting survivors, and treating all people as fully human are nonpartisan positions. And we head into the weekend looking for equipoise.

equipoise |ˈekwəˌpoiz|
balance of forces or interests

verb [ with obj. ]
balance or counterbalance (something).

ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from equi-‘equal’ + the noun poise, replacing the phrase equal poise.

Have A Great Weekend

This week, we remembered Jake Brewer and his impact on CtK’s mission, his community, and our democracy. Jake’s mom and CtK’s Founder, Lori Brewer Collins, shared her powerful reflections on how his death has shaped her life.

I live my life 𝑎𝑠 𝑖𝑓 Jake passed a baton to me, 𝑎𝑠 𝑖𝑓, in the form of a post-it note left on his White House computer monitor, he was signaling me to “Cultivate the Karass.”

I live 𝑎𝑠 𝑖𝑓 there’s a purpose to the time I have left, and that I can be instrumental in contributing to his vision for our democracy: that we can genuinely embody transpartisan collaboration. If we choose.

But mostly, I live 𝑎𝑠 𝑖𝑓 he were still here. This gives me strength. And it feeds my hope.
— Lori Brewer Collins

Dear America by CtK Alum Jose Antonio Vargas hit bookshelves this week and included its own lovely remembrance of Jake. “Whenever doubts clouded my mind, Jake was always my first call…He always told me I was enough.”

Read the immigration op-ed Jose authored in this week’s NYT, check out an early review of Dear America, and then catch him on his book tour in a city near you. And join DC area Karassers tonight to support Jose on his DC book tour stop!

Brittany Packnett penned a timely and insightful piece on women and apologies: “The most striking lesson I derived from all of this was a profound life lesson: demand the apologies you deserve.”

CtK Alums Bishop Garrison and Sarah Hunt teamed up for this op-ed about retaining the process for approving wind farms near military bases: “Let’s not also forget that wind energy is a vital economic engine, employing more than 100,000 Americans, and the men and women who serve our country find jobs in wind at a rate 72 percent higher than the average in other industries.”

The Democracy Fund talks about ways that they are empowering religious leaders to overcome paralyzing partisan gridlock and extremist language: “Although some partisanship is to be expected in a democracy, it is also true that civil debate and principled compromise are essential to governing a large, diverse, and complex society like ours.”

As the Carolinas grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, here are a few ways that you can help:

This weekend, we hope that you will take your cues from Jake and Lori. Shine brightly for the people around you, remind them that they are enough, share your spark with others, and dare to live as if. Have a great weekend! We’ll see you next week.

Missing Jake

Friday evening, September 18th, three years ago. That was the last time I saw my son alive.

It was a memorable, joy-filled evening. Jake drove over with Georgia, his just-turned two-year-old daughter. We spent time playing her favorite games, then gave her a bath. He nestled her into bed - singing a song in his notably stage-worthy voice, and soothed her to sleep. It was a beautiful sight for me to witness: my son at his best.

Britt, his sister, arrived shortly afterwards. Jake and Britt were close - best friends really. They noted how long it had been since it was just the three of us at the table. Like all families, we have a way of being that strikes us as especially clever, funny, significant. Things that no one else would find particularly amusing. But it was our way of being, and that night we slipped into our familial “language,” basking in unhurried hanging out together.

All too soon, Britt said her goodbyes and Jake headed to bed early. He was leaving Georgia with me so he could set out the next morning on a weekend-long charity bike-ride. He and his tightly-knit community were riding in support of a mutual friend, Jessy Tolkan, whose brother, Ben, suffers from a rare form of cancer.

So Jake and I said our goodbyes that Friday night. I was roused briefly Saturday morning by the sound of him closing the front door as he slipped out of the house.

We talked one more time that day. He called about 2:30 pm to check on Georgia. He was ebullient. It was a crisp, sunny September day and it had been weeks, even months, since he’d been out on his cherished bike. He was having a fabulous day. We chatted for several minutes, and then closed our conversation with “I love you,” our usual parting words. Thank God. It would be the last words he said to me. How grateful I am for the habit we had of saying goodbye. Because the next call I received was “that call” - the one no parent allows themselves to imagine ever happening to them.

Nothing has been the same since 5:18 pm, September 19, 2015. The tectonic plates of my soul forever shifted. Everything changed: my orientation to time, my sense of what’s important (or not), almost all of my relationships. Every cell of my being has been affected. Who I was no longer exists.

And with that ending, a different portal opened. In the three years since Jake died, I’ve discovered a more expanded version of who I am and who I can be.

As I experience this third year of missing Jake, the week fills with re-activated levels of grief. My heart drowns, my soul aches, and I fight to move through the sorrow. I see a horizon of endless Septembers in front of me; I doubt this month will ever get easier for me.

And yet, paradoxically, and as recently as this morning, I experience the sheer joy and wonder of Jake’s daughters, Georgia and Garnet J., the daughter he never met. They shine bright with exuberance - a constant reminder of Jake’s legacy of vitality and boundless optimism.

Life is full of ironies. Two electives I took during my coursework at Vanderbilt Divinity School a few years earlier included Hope & Despair and Soteriology (the study of salvation). I thought they'd provide insight. Not so. I left each class with ten times more questions than I started with. How naïve I was when I wrote papers for these classes! I had no idea despair would visit me so tangibly, so fiercely, a few years later. And diving into scholarly literature about humanity’s salvation, while theologically fascinating, is pretty much all theory.

Nonetheless, the classes did help me articulate one point of wisdom that’s anchored me since the call telling me my son had not survived. The pearl I discovered: to live life “as if.” I discovered that within the unanswerable questions of hope, despair, and salvation, there is a choice. To live as if despair is survivable; as if it’s a teacher for insights found only by way of passing through it. I choose to live as if salvation is possible; as if I save the essence of my own soul by connecting with others.

Despair has added dimensionality to my life I would never have known or asked for. It shapes and informs my work. I’m a better executive coach as a result of passing through this territory, a better facilitator, a better observer of groups. I would never choose the events that led to despair, but I have absolute choice about how I’ll respond to it.  

So, I live my life as if Jake passed a baton to me, as if, in the form of a post-it note left on his White House computer monitor, he was signaling me to “Cultivate the Karass.” 

I live as if there’s a purpose to the time I have left, and that I can be instrumental in contributing to his vision for our democracy: that we can genuinely embody transpartisan collaboration. If we choose. 

But mostly, I live as if he were still here. This gives me strength. And it feeds my hope.


Have A Great Weekend!

This week we remembered 9/11 and honored the heroes who rushed toward the chaos. They embody the best of who we are as Americans. We sent voters to the polls in two states. Our alums took a hard look at some pressing issues on ethics, national security, climate change, and critical feedback. We’re heading into the weekend tracking Hurricane Florence and hoping that everyone in its massive path stays safe.

CtK.Campfire Alum DJ Patil with his perspective on ethics and data science, an essay from the new book he co-authored: Ethics and Data Science (get the ebook here).

“The question that we need to address is what can we do to ensure that data and technology work for us rather than against us?”
— DJ Patil

A piece from CtK.Campfire Alum Bishop Garrison on the need for more women of color in national security. “Women of color have a deeply profound and compelling American experience that provides them with a keenly sharp and unique voice in the protection of our nation and its allies. We would all be smart to listen to them more.”

Libraries provide access to so much more than just books! A great op-ed on the importance of information and interaction in today’s world. “If we have any chance of rebuilding a better society, social infrastructure like the library is precisely what we need.”

Some thoughts from CtK Founder Lori Brewer Collins on the value of paying attention to the “what” rather than the “who” when you get feedback—and what it means for our current political moment.

Early voting will for the general will start in coming weeks. We’re issuing our weekly reminder to check your registration. There have been numerous reports throughout the primary season of active voters being purged from the rolls. Don’t assume! Confirm! And then encourage other people to register and vote!

Lori will be on the road this fall hosting a series of conversations, happy hour events, and spectrum exercises throughout the country. You can support loyal antagonism by showing up! Find the full list of events here!

And, as always, a weekly reminder to talk to strangers, read a perspective from an ideologically opposed publication (and support good journalism), have coffee with someone you don’t agree with, and be a loyal antagonist. Have a great weekend! We’ll see you next week.

Grownups, Feedback, & the What

I live in a professional world where grown-ups frequently receive anonymous feedback. I’ve learned a lot about adult behavior by observing how people at all levels of an organization, some with seven- and eight-figure incomes, react to their reports.

At the outset, the feedback receiver is encouraged to pay attention to the “what” of the message, not the “who” gave it. The premise is that there’s value to be derived in the comment, regardless of who said it. 

This is wasted breath.

Every adult I’ve ever given 360 feedback results to goes straight to guessing who said it. The instinct is to determine who said what so they can decide if the comment has merit. If they think it’s person A, they take it seriously. If they think it’s person B, they can write it off as irrelevant. They do this even if person B’s comments are a gold mine of insight. 

So, it’s been fascinating to watch how DC and the rest of the country react to the New York Time’s anonymous op-ed article. Our governing and policy-making adults are behaving no differently than their corporate counterparts. Here's the pattern:

  1. First, everyone wants to be held blameless. Feedback reports invariably include comments that reflect that we’re less than perfect. I’ve yet to see anyone enjoy receiving “constructive” feedback. Even if they say they do, they don’t. It stings and we don’t like it.

  2. Nonetheless, the mature leader wants to know how to use the information to become more effective.

  3. The less mature leader finds reasons the feedback doesn’t actually pertain to them. They offer defensive rationale to prove they are innocent. 

  4. The more mature leader is able to grasp that their positive intentions don’t automatically translate into intended effects they have on others. They seek to align their actions with desired intent. This is where the juice is.

  5. The less mature utterly miss this linkage. In fact, they actively work against it: they expend energy faulting everyone else. The other person clearly “took it the wrong way.” 

  6. The least mature become obsessed with discovering who gave the comment. And they relish the idea of payback. 

What’s been dismaying for me is to see the obsession with finding out who wrote the op-ed article. Speculation about the intent and the character of the author(s) has essentially become the story. 

In other words, there’s no value in the message since we don’t know who wrote it. The focus has been exclusively on the “Who.”

What if we paid attention to the “What”? What if we assumed that it’s worthwhile to consider the content of this particular piece of feedback, even if it’s a message we didn't want to hear?

Because that is where the juice is.

Have A Great Weekend

The first week of September is in the books!

With it came two more primaries and the Kavanaugh hearings. The Senate provided numerous examples of free speech and not a lot in the way of loyal antagonism. In the face of contentious hearings, high stakes decision-making, and mid-term elections, how can we model and foster loyal antagonism? We're hoping to hear from you.

Here's what we've been talking about this week:

Hope, faith, and voter turnout.

A little Childish Gambino to close out summer.

DeRay Mckesson (and his ubiquitous blue vest) featured in Vanity Fair! And he's embarked on his book tour. Catch him in a city near you! (DC tonight!)

Bishop Garrison in his new role as interim Executive Director of the Truman Project for some Friday motivation.

Lori is coming to the West Coast later this month! Spectrum exercises anyone? Find out more here and keep an eye out for details on facebook!

Have coffee with someone who sees the world differently than you do. Check your voter registration. And be kind to strangers.