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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Building a diverse democracy

Interfaith America
Kelly Feldmiller
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Interfaith America
Eboo Patel

Western Michigan University’s We Talk program is guided by the principles of increasing open inquiry, diversity of viewpoint, and constructive disagreement. It has invited Eboo Patel to visit the campus to talk about his book, We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy (Beacon Press, 2022). Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith America, a leading interfaith organization in the U.S.

A conversation with Eboo Patel

Patel served on former president Barack Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council and has given hundreds of keynote speeches. He is also the author of five books, all with the goal of making faith a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division.

Patel Cover.jpg
Beacon Press
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Interfaith America
Cover of "We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy"

“In my new book, We Need to Build, I say that America is best understood as a potluck nation,” Patel says. “What I mean by that is that we are best when we are inviting the distinctive contributions of diverse communities to a common table. That’s respect for and welcoming of diverse identities. But you also need to relate positively. A potluck has that as well: you are nurturing enriching conversation, and you are facilitating creative combinations. It’s so wonderful when somebody’s recipe for crusty bread from Eastern Europe combines just perfectly with a recipe from the Middle East for a spicy dip.”

Patel and Manu Meel of BridgeUSA will be at Western Michigan University on October 5 and 6 to share how their organizations work with institutions and individuals to build a more diverse and just democracy. They will host student-focused events and a campus-community conversation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, October 6, in the Bernhard Center’s South Ballroom. Registration is requested.

Interfaith America inspires leaders and institutions to unlock the potential of America’s religious diversity. BridgeUSA creates spaces on high school and college campuses for open discussion about political issues.

“Diversity shouldn’t be a battlefield,” Patel says. “We shouldn’t constantly be warring amongst our identities or calling people out or only stating our wounds. We should be bringing our best dish to the American potluck.”

Patel says the purpose of We Talk is to foster a culture of responsible and respectful civic, social, political and policy engagement. He says it seeks to raise awareness about free speech protections and promote the value of respecting viewpoint diversity in the academic world and learning environments.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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