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The Friday theme at Everyday Democracy’s National Conference, which began on June 12, was open dialogue. The intent: opening a national forum to discuss…discussions.

Everyday Democracy, a non-profit group devoted to setting up round-table conversations among community members about race, poverty, and other hard-hitting issues, is big on talk. Attendees of the three-day conference in Denver listened to a lot of it.

The standout of the day, though, was Everyday Democracy’s Study Circles program, meant for students, teachers, parents, and community members to gather and -- what else? -- tackle heavy issues through open discussion. Yes, we all know how to use our vocal chords, but the way Everyday Democracy views conversation takes things one step further.

The forums encourage people to connect with members of other races and socioeconomic classes to reach a middle ground. “Even though we’re from different age groups, we all have the same goals; we all want change,” said one high school-age participant.

The 160 or so attendees ranged from students to seasoned professionals, exhibiting the wide target group Everyday Democracy hopes to reach. “We try to bring people together. This was started so that everyday people would have a voice in their democracy. And not just on election day,” explained Martha McCoy, Everyday Democracy’s executive director.

In a creative twist on keynote speeches, the conference handed off the talking stick to individual voices; the day opened, closed, and broke for lunch with plenary-style discussions on the conference itself and what issues were most pressing for society today. From listening to the participants, chatting about everything from jet lag and high altitude to racism and crime, you’d think that this group believes they can change the world.

And with the power of talk, maybe they can. -- Maddie Wolberg

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