past event

The First Step Seminar: Transcendent Dialogue in a Polarized World

3 Consecutive Fridays, May 14 – May 28, 2021
5:00 to 7:00 PM EDT

The demand for this seminar has been overwhelming! We are glad that so many people are interested in this offering. Registration is currently full, but you can still “take the first step” towards transcending what divides us. Fill out a short form below to:

  • Receive exclusive seminar resources from the First Step Seminar
  • Be the first to know when our next registration is open
  • Learn more about similar seminars from the Aspen Institute


We lament the divisions in our society. We strive for common ground, but also struggle to get beyond our preconceptions of the “other side.” How do we engage each other in honest conversation? How do we see the issues, each other, and ourselves with fresh eyes? This is an opportunity to counter polarization by critically assessing our own views and making commitments to ourselves and others.

The first step to transcending what divides us is to hold a mirror to our own views, assess where these beliefs are rooted, and examine our biases and assumptions critically in a brave space that allows us to better understand others and ourselves.

The First Step Seminar combines an interactive workbook with the Aspen Seminar method of moderated, text-based dialogue. Over the course of three seminars, participants will begin to unpack their core beliefs and assumptions about the world in the company of other thoughtful people doing the same.

This seminar is not designed to change your mind; the aim is not agreement but understanding. The seminar does not dismiss, but rather gives voice to your lived experience as part of a chorus of experience. In so doing, the seminar provides us all space and structure to tend our worldviews in a way we are typically not afforded in our everyday lives.

The issues that divide and unite us are intellectual, moral, political, and spiritual. By clarifying what we believe both spiritually and practically, we forge the ties of how we can better live and work together as Americans.

Thanks to overwhelming demand, registration is at capacity. You can still take the first step of transcending what divides us with the resources from the seminar. Sign up to receive exclusive resources from the seminar and be the first to receive an update when the next seminar registration is open!


About the First Step Seminar

Virtual, cohort-based dialogue:
When you register for the First Step Seminar, you will be placed in a diverse cohort of 15-25 people that will stay together for all three seminar sessions. All sessions are held virtually.

Seminar dates: 

  • Friday, May 14 at 5:00 – 7:00 PM ET
  • Friday, May 21 at 5:00 – 7:00 PM ET
  • Friday, May 28 at 5:00 – 7:00 PM ET

Key questions explored:

  • How do your core values influence the way you see the world or approach certain situations in your life?
  • How did you come to hold these values? What people, experiences, or communities in your life influence your worldview?
  • What biases, assumptions, and stereotypes might incline you to be critical of worldviews that are different than your own? What are the limitations of your own worldview?
  • What might we be able to learn from other worldviews? What would you hope that someone learns from your own worldview?
  • How can we be critical of another opinion without dismissing the person who holds that opinion?
  • How can we expand our worldview while honoring our lived experiences and core values? What would this look like? What are the boundaries and limitations?

By participating in this seminar, you will: 

  • Challenge your own world view
  • Grow in empathy for the worldviews that are different from your own
  • Walk away with a clarified understanding of what you believe and what that means for how you interact with others

The First Step Seminar is free and open to the public. Space is limited.

About the Organizers

Aspen Executive Leadership Seminars
Aspen Institute Executive Leadership Seminars challenge individuals to think more deeply, listen more attentively, and refine their ability to lead in an increasingly complex and conflicting world. Through text-based dialogue, the seminar experience engages participants in challenging conversations about enduring questions of ethical and effective leadership, gaining a greater capacity to lead with courage and conviction. Learn more.

Citizenship & American Identity Program
The Citizenship and American Identity Program explores the question of what it means to be American, and how to promote a shared sense of national identity in an age of demographic flux and severe inequality. The program encompasses a range of cross-partisan activities, from workshops and public forums to leadership convenings and seminar-style discussions. Across its forms of public engagement, the program focuses on three dimensions of citizenship: values, systems, and skills. Learn more.

Devil’s Advocacy Initiative
The Devil’s Advocacy Initiative explores how to counter polarization by empowering Americans to critically assess our own worldviews, while still honoring our own truths and lived experiences. This initiative is a collaboration between the Citizenship and American Identity Program, created to help promote a shared sense of national identity and civic purpose, and the Fetzer Institute, whose mission is to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. Learn more.

Fetzer Institute
The Fetzer Institute strives to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world: a world where we understand we are all part of one human family and know our lives have a purpose. In the world we seek, everyone is committed to courageous compassion and bold love—powerful forces for good in the face of fear, anger, division, and despair. Inspired by founder John E. Fetzer, the Fetzer Institute encourages discovering new ways of knowing our sacred world and exploring our personal spiritual journeys as we work toward transformed communities and societies in which all people can flourish. Learn more.

Event information