Have A Great Weekend, Holiday Edition

As the year winds down, we can’t help but reflect on how extraordinary YEAR TWO of this CtK experiment has been.

Thanks to all of you, we’ve been able to expand our footprint and amplify our impact. Here are a few highlights from the year, we’ll be bringing you a few more in coming days.

  • 100% increase in Campfire Alumni

  • Alumni traveled from 15 states

  • Codified our commitment to diversity by adding representatives of heterogeneous backgrounds including Muslims, Jews, Christians, African-Americans, LGBTQI+, Latinx, military veterans, women, and disabled individuals

  • Hosted two (2) CtK.Campfires & seven (7) alumni events and workshops

  • Established partnerships with Institutes of Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, University of Chicago Institute of Politics, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University

  • Facilitated workshops and panels with national influencers including Patriots & Pragmatists and the Obama Foundation Summit

  • Participated at Citizen University’s Civic Collaboratory with other leaders of non-profit organizations

  • Launched CtK’s first Annual Appeal to alumni, supporters and friends

Please help us realize our mission of improving our democracy. Make your year end gift today.

Have A Great Weekend (Plus A Subtle Reminder: Sign Up for Healthcare!)

Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for healthcare. Visit healthcare.gov.


DJ Patil! (Another good reminder.)

Here’s what our alumni have been up to:

Matt Lira! (Getting sh*t done.)

Bishop Garrison! (He’s on tv.)

Lori Brewer Collins! (She’s on the radio.)

Nick Dawson! (He’s hiring.)

Giving Tuesday/Year End Cohort Challenge Update. (Help your Cohort by supporting CtK!)

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Have a great weekend!

Have A Great Weekend

Today, we’re remembering #PearlHarbor and those who perished 77 years ago today and in the war that followed. Reflecting on the selflessness of the men and women who gave their lives for this nation in WWII and every day since. #thankyouforyourservice

Lori Brewer Collins was on WERA in Arlington, VA this week talking about her story, the founding of CtK, and the future of our democracy.

This week marked the inaugural convening of United States of Care. You can see all their panels and panelists discussing the path ahead for healthcare here. The conversations served as a reminder of three essential and perennial points:

  • Even the most intractable problems can be solved when we put aside our differences and work toward the common good.

  • The future of healthcare is inextricably tied to voting rights and voter turnout.

  • There is still time to sign up for healthcare coverage under the ACA! Go to healthcare.gov before December 15th and spread the word!

This week also brought the orientation of new members of Congress. With younger, social media savvy members now entering the chamber, we’re getting more of a look behind the scenes. Freshman Reps Dan Crenshaw (R) and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D) provided most of the play-by-plays. We’re optimistic that their work will help to engage more people—especially the next generation of voters!—in the political process.

Plus the start of Advent and Hanukkah. Wishing everyone happy holidays!

Have a great weekend.

Have A Great Weekend

Thanks to CtK supporters who kicked off our first #GivingTuesday with a bang!

Right now, Cohort II is in the lead in the Cohort Challenge!

We hope you’ll all give between now and the end of 2018 and show your Campfire pride.


Jennifer Pahlka Should Governor-Elect Newsom create a California Digital Service?


CtK Alums weighing in on climate change, the recent UN climate report, and next steps:

Emily Holden writing for the Guardian UK, four part series on climate change:

Bipartisan Climate Fee Backers to Plant Flag During Lame Duck

“And Sarah Hunt, CEO of the nonprofit Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy, said Congress should “focus on achievable climate solutions first,” like increased support for energy technologies and research and development.

‘Republicans and Democrats can agree on several greenhouse gas emissions reducing strategies, including building efficient infrastructure, clean energy sector job growth, and advanced energy technology R&D,’ Hunt said.”


Two takes on the Cohen plea deal:

From the National Review: Trump’s Unacceptable Campaign Conduct and Two Other Takeaways from the Cohen Plea

From the Washington Post: Trump talked up Russia during now-revealed secret Moscow project talks


Lastly, a quick recap of a busy month!

After the mid-term elections, Lori hit the road and made her way to Georgetown IOP, Patriots & Pragmatists, University of Chicago IOP, Grinnell College, culminating with the Obama Foundation Summit. In November alone, CtK has reached hundreds of people, elevating their understanding of what it means to be a loyal antagonist.

Our movement continues to expand. Thank you for all you do as a loyal antagonist.

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A Strong Democracy requires strong leaders.

Cultivate the Karass is redefining the rules of political and social engagement. CtK's loyal antagonists champion strong opinions--and engage with differing perspectives to expand their knowledge and galvanize better problem solving.

We are building a stronger democracy. And we need your help to achieve it.

CtK’s support comes from individuals, foundations, and private philanthropy and is entirely supported by donations from visionaries like you.

This #GivingTuesday, please consider a tax deductible donation to CtK

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Thanksgiving Conversations

Question: Are holiday gatherings, particularly those with family, the best place to have deep discussions about politics, religion, and personal values? 

Answer: Probably not. 

Question: Are they the setting for a lot of these conversations anyway? 

Answer: For most people, yes. 

Over three decades training leaders to have hard conversations, I’ve been able to develop some approaches that are just as helpful at the holiday dinner table as they are in the corporate board room. For most of us, there is more at stake at the dinner table. Here are some suggestions for navigating these potentially explosive encounters in a way that preserves your integrity while respecting others at the table:

  1. Start by assuming positive intent.

    Assume no one has come to the meal intending to be a jerk. There’s a good chance that some of your table-mates feel the same way about you and your ideology as you do about theirs. Put the weaponizing language on a shelf, look at the people around you, and believe that they, too, would rather have a peaceful time together. 

  2. Be inquisitive and honor their story.

    Use this as an opportunity to listen and gain a better understanding of people with whom you share deep ties, even if you don’t choose to be with them for most of the year. Ask questions until you learn something about them that you didn't already know. And if a polarizing comment about politics comes up, try something like: “I realize I don’t know what’s led you to feel that way. I don’t agree, but I’m curious about how you came to this conclusion.”

  3. Honor your own story. 

    Hopefully, your family will reciprocate and give you the opportunity to explain how you have come to your perspectives. But don’t count on it. If you have worked on your own emotional intelligence and have learned to withhold judgment long enough to truly hear another person, then you are the person responsible for the tenor of the conversation—even if others fall short.

    If you feel that remaining silent violates a commitment you’ve made to yourself regarding an important issue, speak up. But be mindful of your words, and be honest about your intentions. If you are hoping to persuade someone to change their opinion, you should probably let that go.

  4. Create an atmosphere of grace.

    Take the time and energy to embody a spirit of grace and allow it to be resident at the table. Yes, this can be exhausting. But it's also an opportunity for each of us to look in the mirror, make a choice about how we want to show up, and then bring this aspiration alive through words that foster connection, reconciliation, empathy and compassion. 

The holiday dinner table can quickly become a battlefield. But it is also an opportunity to buck the tide of polarizing anxiety that dominates America at this particular moment. You can choose to do something different: to listen, engage more fully, and act with genuine empathy towards those you care about. 

The results may surprise you. 

Have A Great Weekend

Lori & the CtK crew at Georgetown IOP!

Lori & the CtK crew at Georgetown IOP!

What have you been up to this week?

We honored our nation’s heroes on Veteran’s Day. "Patriotism has no monolithic voice or singular face. Those who defend us are as diverse as our nation itself — and that is a great strength of our nation." Read the rest of CtK Alum Bishop Garrison words honoring of veterans in this essay.

Lori was at Georgetown on Monday (with lots of CtK Alums), P&P on Tuesday (with lots of CtK Alums), Grinnell College in Iowa on Wednesday, and now she’s gearing up for the Obama Foundation Summit on Monday!

She reports: “Great discussions with brilliant political influencers: Are we a democracy or a republic? Do Americans know the difference? And which one do you think the US should be moving towards?” That’s our question for you this weekend: Are we a democracy or a republic?

A few reads from the week:

We’re gearing up for #GivingTuesday—a global giving movement!—and hope you’ll help us participate. Tune in next week for more details about the Cohort Challenge. And save the date!

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Have A Great Weekend

We want to confess our naiveté right up front.

We thought that the news cycle might slow down for a hot second in the hours after the election. We are heartbroken at another mass shooting. We are tracking election results that are heading to recounts and legal challenges. Things seem to be moving faster than ever.

If you’re willing to keep reading after that confession, we do have a few more thoughts.

First, thank you to everyone who helped make this a record-setting election. We salute every single person who stepped up, volunteered, registered new voters, worked to make our representative democracy even more representative. Congratulations to all of our CtK Alums who knocked doors, did comms, wrote essays, backed candidates, shared expertise, and, at all turns, showed up on behalf of our democracy. We are immensely proud.

Second, let’s acknowledge that this is a complicated moment. We’re all being asked to grapple with a lot of complexity. We’re asking people to hold the tension of the opposites all the time. The ground keeps shifting and the world seems to be speeding up and contradicting itself nearly all the time. (Or, as Alexandra Petri put it: the news is like if the Augean stables were also somehow a hydra.) Reports are telling us of further polarization and an exhausted majority.

So we’re asking you, our alums, our loyal antagonists, to live into your training. Find ways to listen and be open. To be clear, when there is racism, misogyny, anti-semitism or a threat to the republic, we know you will work to reduce hate. But the only way forward is to believe that we are all in it for the sake of the nation, for the future of our country, for the rights of all people. Now is the time to forge productive alliances.

Now is the time for loyal antagonism.


We want to share a few post-election reads and reminders, all focused on healthcare:


And from us to you, one more expression of our gratitude: You are the champions of our democracy, and we are optimistic about the future because of you, because of your hard work.

Thank you.