Remember the PalmPilot? Roxanna Deane does. Back in the 1990s, she was an early adopter of the little handheld device that predated the smart phone.
Which helps explain why Roxanna, who leans Blue, slid so easily into volunteer tasks that involved technology when she joined Braver Angels two years ago. “There were all these Gmail accounts and accounts on Dropbox. I just kind of cleaned things up,” she says.
Others aren’t so ready to downplay her many hours volunteering with the alliance in central Texas. “She has been especially helpful with behind-the-scenes logistical support, like our website, Mailchimp, Eventbrite, and our Alliance’s interactions with Braver Angels’ [technology leaders],” says Karl Schmalz, Red Co-Chair of Braver Angels of Central Texas. “She keeps the trains running on time in a busy environment!”
Roxanna’s contributions in just two years go well beyond tech assistance. She has energized her community in Comal County about 30 miles south of Austin. Through her efforts and persistence and with the help of a few friends, Roxanna helped set up and run two in-person workshops (one Red/Blue, the other Depolarizing Within) in June of this year. Another in-person Red/Blue workshop is scheduled for next month. And there are plans for a Family and Politics workshop in November – again, in person.
She and several others in her community have become Braver Angels Ambassadors, setting up and making presentations in the area. And she has worked recently with Ron Frisk, a definite Red, and Lynn Silver, a true Blue, who met at one of the workshops and who have collaborated on an opinion piece for the local newspaper, the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. “Lynn and Ron are regular contributors to that paper and sat next to each other at one of our workshops,” says Roxanna. A photo accompanying the op-ed has Lynn wearing a “Mothers against Greg Abbott” shirt and Ron’s shirt says “God, Guns, Trump”. I think great things will come from their shared op-ed piece,” says Roxanna.
Roxanna was a natural fit for Braver Angels from Day One. During her career as the director of the library in Canyon Lake, she made certain that the books her library purchased and lent out represented a wide range of disparate views. Long worried about the loss of civility in ordinary civic life, she had been organizing workshops at the library, some hosted by The Institute for Civility in Government, a non-profit with aims similar to those of Braver Angels, and others leveraging the Great Decisions themes developed by the Foreign Policy Association. “My board of trustees was always in support,” she says. “Civil discourse is a part of the library’s mission.”
Recently, Roxanna has been pounding the pavement as a trained Braver Angels Ambassador. She has presented at her church, and has plans for plenty more outreach in the months ahead. “The idea is to try to drum up an appetite for workshops,” she says. She is a strong believer in the power of the incremental approach. “We don’t need hundreds coming to hear us,” she says; all it takes is one passionate person who sees the value in depolarization and who is willing to join the effort. “If people are exposed to just the one workshop and it changes how they respond, then that has already made a difference,” she says.
And if those people happen to be natural connectors – people with large active networks of contacts – then so much the better. Roxanna uses herself as the example: “When it came time to figure out people to call to attend our new workshops, I knew everyone,” she says. “Ron Frisk [the Red mentioned above] was on my library board.”
Meanwhile, Roxanna continues to meet Karl each week on Zoom; they discuss priorities and brainstorm new ideas. She enthuses about working with large, influential groups such as Rotary International – already a Braver Angels partner – and she wants to expand the number of workshops organized and run by her community – maybe one every other month.
And beyond that? More Braver Angels members. “We have maybe 15 members in our county,” she says. “I’d like there to be 100.” Roxanna being Roxanna, reaching that goal really won’t take long. ⧠