As the nation braces for another presidential election, the wounds from the polarization of 2016 remain unhealed among families and friends. In these challenging times, we believe it is crucial to revive the art of conversation, to foster understanding and bridge the divide. Inspired by the larger mission of our partner St. John’s College, Creative Santa Fe (CrSF) is offering two seminar series—Democracy In America (in March) and Democracy In New Mexico (in April). Both series are co-facilitated by CrSF Executive Director Sorakamol Annette Prapasiri and CrSF Creative Fellow Patrick Schaefer, who is also Chief General Counsel for New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.
The seminars are conducted in St. John’s style, where participants are expected to read the text prior to the sessions and engage with each other. Secondary sources are to be avoided and opinions about the current political views are not to be debated. Participants are asked to stay committed to understand the text at hand and one another. By the end of each seminar series, participants will be able to ask furthering questions, listen deeply, and synthesize ideas.
“People often forget that democracy as a concept is relatively novel to human civilization. This idea of vesting the power in the people—especially ALL people, not just the elite—is a new form of governance,” says Sorakamol. As a U.S. citizen who was born and raised in Thailand, she brings an informed perspective to the conversation, having observed our democracy from both outside and in. “Modernity praises and desires diversity, but it is often romanticized. To weave a vibrant and inclusive social fabric from the threads of our differences requires a generous dose of goodwill and considerate people who are skilled at navigating differing values and ideas.”
“Democracy is a system that requires ongoing attention and discussion,” says Patrick. “So, not only will we re-engage with Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which surveys the political and social landscape of America in the early 1800s, but also the roots of governance and of democracy in New Mexico. Here, readings will center on historical first-person accounts from Tribal, Spanish, Mexican, and American sources from key moments in the state’s history.”
As a graduate of St. John’s College, Patrick understood the positive habits that his educational foundation had forged in him. “We were asked to deeply understand the other—whether it be the authors, our classmates, or our faculty—before we formed our opinion about their ideas. By the end of our four years, we were more eager to listen and think than to talk.” Patrick reflects.
“I am thrilled that Creative Santa Fe is offering these two community seminar series to the public, so more people can experience the true meaning of conversation—a willing journey to take together,” remarks Sorakamol.
Both Democracy seminar series are a part of CrSF’s newest program Color Us True, which offers curated creative experiences for those ready to connect, engage, and grow.