Laura Chasin

Director of the Public Conversations Project, Watertown, Massachusetts

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A lot of the concerns that I had when I studied Political Science before I went to social work school, about my understandings of democracy, and the American Political process, and what it takes to make democracy really work had been fueling a growing alarm about what's going on in this country, as far as the growing decisiveness, the rise of single-issue politics, this sort of degeneration of discourse in the public square.

The evidence of voter disengagement, violent episodes of violence and so forth. I had a pre-existing concern over whether democracy - warts and all - god knows, that I have known in my lifetime, was going to be something my grandchildren were going to experience. I really thought, unless we can develop wide-spread antidotes, sort of agents of social glue, to counteract the forces that are fueled by the media in the political process that are augmenting divisiveness, isolation of groups from one another, demonization of those who are different and that kind of thing. Unless we can do it, I basically think that this country is going to go down the tubes in ways that would make me deeply sad.