Bridging Differences

October 23, 2009

By Claire Sykes

Seven words is all it took from the tweet I tossed out the other day asking, “What the heck is Velvet Sofa Salon?” If I’d never typed them, I might never have met Walt Roberts and Aimee Samara of the Transpartisan Alliance, and the nearly 20 others who filled their beautiful Northeast Portland home two nights ago.


Walt Roberts

Walt Roberts

Aimee Samara

Aimee Samara

Colorful Fiestaware plates piled with lasagna, bread, salads and desserts sat on our laps, all of us in a circle in the living room, while Joseph McCormick, co-founder of Reuniting America talked about that organization and the Transpartisan Alliance.

Joseph McCormick

Joseph McCormick

What the heck are these two groups all about anyway? Both embrace an emerging field in political thought. Neither bipartisan (“right” and “left”) nor nonpartisan (avoiding the two altogether), transpartisanship welcomes a range of perspectives, encouraged through conversation and conflict resolution, within all levels of living in the world—from hashing out the Iraq war with your Bush-loving neighbor to bringing leaders of opposing values and opinions together in cooperative debate. The goal? To achieve a “democratic republic”—by uniting the values of a democracy (freedom, equality and regard for the common good) with those of a republic (order, responsibility and security).

Joseph, a tall and slender, soft-spoken and heart-felt yet hell-bent man wearing polished penny loafers, had us pair up and bunch off, as we explored questions and impressions, convening again to share with the group. The room, brightly lit for documentary filmmaker Peter Hwosch’s camera, was beaming with energy and inspiration. And we weren’t all leftists, either.

What could possibly go wrong when we open our minds and hearts and really listen to each other? When we respect and value varying points of view, without judgment? When we collaborate and build connection? It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

The Transpartisan Alliance certainly thinks so. As an “informal network of networks,” this national organization brings its consultants and speakers, facilitators and trainers to café and living room gatherings and town hall meetings, corporate conferences and government forums all around the country. The other night we were one of those, our transpartisanism transpiring.

I was the last to leave Walt and Aimee’s, just after midnight, by then the kitchen cleaned up and the whole house quiet. I had in my hand the CD that Peter gave me, a live, solo gig of his original songs.

Peter Hwosch

Peter Hwosch


I put it on in the car and cranked it up. The chords from his guitar carried a clear, smooth voice that sung of love and letting go, forgiveness and freedom. I thought about the evening—the melodies and lyrics said it all. And I listened to that music as if it were someone talking to me, while I drove the dark, silent streets home.

© Claire Sykes. All rights reserved.

Published in: on October 23, 2009 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  

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