Listening to America in New Orleans

The Huffington Post’s “Listen to America” Bus Tour arrived in New Orleans, its final stop on the 25-city tour across the United States to listen to the stories of Americans and to hear about their hopes and dreams for themselves, the nation, and the future. 

The drive through Louisiana was filled with green scenery and delicious food. We stopped in Lafayette at a restaurant with local cuisine as a halfway point in between Houston and New Orleans. Eventually, we arrived in NOLA and prepared for our final activations the following two days.

We held the first activation in New Orleans at Louis Armstrong Park in Congo Square, directly adjacent from the French Quarter and only a handful of blocks down from the infamous Bourbon street. While we interviewed pedestrians and locals walking through the park, a group played music with drums, bongos, and other percussion instruments across the plaza. Hundreds of people came by to find out what was going on. It proved to be a great opportunity to discuss the importance of civil discourse for our democracy and to hear from those who were waiting to be interviewed.

“My wife and I disagree about a lot of things, but we always respect each other and never let it get in the way of our relationship,” one man said about the differences in political opinions shared by him and his wife. Political incivility has caused tension in many relationships, sometimes even leading to a point where politics cannot be discussed at all between those who disagree. This man’s comment about his relationship with his wife, although simple, is symbolic of successful political conversations in general. If everybody treated those who they partake in discourse with in a respectable manner, and agreed to disagree, we can discuss the things that matter and hopefully find commonalities among our opinions that will lead to meaningful and productive solutions.

The last activation, which took place the next day, was at Tulane University. We met with students, faculty, and passerby traffic to have one last chance to hear from people about their thoughts, concerns, passions, philosophies, and outlook on the current state of America. As we packed up after the event, there was a great sense of accomplishment among everybody working the event.

The tour ended with a farewell event at an old opera house. The building itself was large and beautiful, with pictures of those who had done interviews lining the main hall while appetizers and drinks were served to the crowd. Before the final celebration, the HuffPost held an event at the opera house open to the public where journalists spoke about their experiences touring the country. Afterwards, dinner and drinks were served to all those who attended in order to celebrate a job well done.

There is no doubt that the 25 city bus tour was an amazing way to hear from everyday Americans. In total, over 1,500 interviews were conducted with over 1,700 interviewees. Hundreds of citizens throughout the country signed the pledge to Revive Civility & Respect in America, including Mayors, Council Members, State and local legislatures, and community leaders.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse, housed within The University of Arizona College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, and Huffington Post are partnering to do a bus tour of 25 cities to Listen to America. At the height of fake news, distrust in the media, political polarization, and demonization of those with different viewpoints, it’s time for the media to listen to America, and it’s time for Americans to listen to each other.

Twitter: @NICDInstitute, @HuffPost, #ListentoAmerica, #ReviveCivility