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Wendy Willis: These Are Strange Times, My Dear

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In Conversation with Cheryl Graeve of the National Institute for Civil Discourse and Joe Weston of Georgetown’s Department of Conflict Resolution

In these pointed and wide-ranging essays, Wendy Willis explores everything from personal resistance to the rise of political podcasts, civic loneliness to the exploitation of personal data, public outrage to the opioid crisis—all with a poet's gift for finding the sacred in the mundane, a hope in the dark.

One of the country's sharpest observers of politics, art, and the American spirit, Willis returns often to the demanding question posed by Czech writer, activist, and politician Václav Havel: What does it mean to live in truth? Her view is honed by her place as a poet, as a mother, and, when necessary, as an activist. Together, the essays in These Are Strange Times, My Dear work within that largely unmapped place where the heartbreaks and uncertainties of one's inner life brush up against the cruelties and responsibilities of politics and government and our daily lives.

Wendy Willis is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, she has published two books of poetry and in journals, including New England ReviewOregon HumanitiesPoetry NorthwestThe RumpusZócalo Public Square, and ZYZZYVA. Willis is a lawyer, the executive director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and the founder and director of Oregon's Kitchen Table.

Cheryl Graeve currently serves as the National Community Organizer with the National Institute for Civil Discourse to foster bridges of understanding across our divides through an initiative to Revive Civility and Respect. She has experience in democracy building, community organizing, issue campaign creation, training and civic leadership development.  She’s had the joy of working with passionate volunteer leaders in all 50 states as the Senior Director of Field Support for the League of Women Voters of the United States. She’s worked with the AFL-CIO on an international anti-child labor campaign. And from her home state of Minnesota, helped pass a state law to conduct voter registration through public agencies and worked for Congressman Gerry Sikorski.

Joe Weston is an international workshop facilitator, author of Mastering Respectful Confrontation, consultant, coach, and advocate for lasting peace. He is currently adjunct professor at Georgetown University, School of Government, Department of Conflict Resolution. Joe brings insights based on many teachings, including Tai Chi Chuan, mindfulness and experience in theater and organizational trainings. He works with government and educational institutions, including NASA, The World Bank and Oxfam, and with women’s rights organizations in the Middle East and the US, focusing on empowerment, reframing power/masculinity, and overcoming gender-based violence. He has helped wounded veterans and taught meditation and leadership to inmates.

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