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The Red/Blue Pairs of Braver Angels

One of the wonderful things about Braver Angels is the friendships that emerge across the political divide.

Before joining Braver Angels, many of our members had few meaningful relationships with folks on the other side of the aisle. Many had lost friends after the 2016 election, and even “defriended” family members on Facebook.

Through Braver Angels, Americans have learned the power, value, and joy of engaging across disagreement. And in many cases, people have found that, lo and behold, they actually really like their political opposites!

Here are their stories:

Sheila and Glenn

“It’s genuine treasure to meet people you deeply disagree with but become just as deep friends.”
– Sheila Kloefkorn and Glenn Stanton, both delegates at the Braver Angels Convention 

Sheila is a business woman, one of the nation’s leading proponents of same sex marriage, and one of the first women in the state of Arizona to legally marry her partner. 

Glenn is a senior leader at Focus on the Family and was a leading public opponent of gay marriage.

After working against each other for many years, they met for the first time through Braver Angels, and became friends.

Christian and Anthony

“We definitely had our share of arguments, both political and otherwise, but we respected each other enough that we made sure to never let our political disagreements change how we viewed each other.”

Anthony Ginger and Christian Sarabia were sophomore year roommates at Graceland University in Iowa.

During their Junior year, Anthony became the head of the College Democrats, while Christian became the head of the College Republicans.

While they had different — and in some cases, opposing — political perspectives, they never let their politics get in the way of their friendship.

In the summer of 2018, they both came to the Braver Angels Convention as Student Delegates, and today they lead Braver Angels activities at Graceland and work to reduce polarization in the region. 

Curtis and Jill

As a lifelong liberal living in predominantly liberal Northern Virginia, Curtis Schaeffer would never have had an opportunity to meet Jill Cook were it not for Braver Angels. Jill is a lifelong Republican (from Connecticut, believe it or not!) and a longtime leader of the GOP in Northern Virginia and other areas of the country.  
“Braver Angels brought us together as the Blue-Red co-coordinators of the Fairfax County Alliance.  We had each attended alliance meetings, and were approached to become leaders when the first Fairfax team had to step down. Seeing the great possibilities for positive growth, we both accepted happily!
We plan, organize and co-facilitate monthly alliance meetings while respecting our differences. Most importantly, we learn from each other and have developed a successful BA alliance by working together effectively AND having fun doing it!   Oh, and there is often wine at our events!!”

Greg and Kouhyar

Greg visits Kouhyar at his mosque in South Lebanon Ohio.

Greg Smith is a Christian conservative and a die-hard Trump supporter.

Kouhyar Mostashfi is an Iranian immigrant of Muslim heritage and a strong progressive Democrat.

When they first met as part of a Braver Angels workshop, they were initially suspicious of one another. But by the time the workshop was over, they found they really liked each other and agreed to visit each other’s places of worships. Being active in Braver Angels have taught them that by genuine curiosity and respectful dialog, they can expand their horizons, learn about each other’s worldviews, and ultimately find common ground.

Today they are good friends and board members of Braver Angels. They’ve also been featured in national news pieces about Braver Angels, including 
ABC Nightline.

Marisa and Steve

Marisa Bogdanoff is a native-Californian, “mama” to a 5 year old and 2 year old, an early veteran of five Silicon Valley start-ups, a vegetarian, a Christian AND a conservative.  Marisa values capitalism, 2nd Amendment rights (her dad is a retired police captain), personal responsibility and the pursuit of the American dream.  She became the co-organizer of a red/blue workshop after learning that her progressive Episcopal church was hosting the event. 

Steve Sphar is a transplanted Midwesterner raised in the conservative environs of small town Ohio.  He is a liberal who believes in the fruits of the progressive movement:  from child labor laws, to worker protections, to Social Security, to Medicare, to civil rights, to environmental stewardship, to protection of gay rights.  He is also a consultant who helps businesses compete in the market, and a contemplative Christian who sees the light of God in everyone.

Steve was the moderator of the workshop that Marisa attended.  They quickly hit it off, shortly thereafter becoming Co-Chairs of the Sacramento Alliance.  

Despite their political differences, Marisa and Steve share the fundamental belief that we are all complex human beings who love our country and strive to promote the common good.  Braver Angels has given them the opportunity to demonstrate their faith in Americans through their work with the Sacramento Alliance.

Mel and Jamie

After 40 years as a dedicated Unitarian Universalist, Mel Pine left that religion because of its progressive politics. Jamie McReynolds is an ordained UU minister.

They found each other through Braver Angels and now are more than friends. They are the Braver Angels co-coordinators for the state of Virginia.

Jamie and Mel agree that their work together promotes two Unitarian Universalist principles: “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning” and “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”

The Karens

“We appreciate being able to ask the hard questions of each others’ political views, and then actually listen to the response!   Skills learned through Braver Angels have had a profound impact on how we initiate and carry on respectful conversation with one another.  We still disagree politically, but have developed a solid friendship.”  

Last summer, Karen Cotter penned a letter to the Editor of the local paper asking if anyone had interest in working to bridge the political divide in our community and Karen Ward responded.  At our first meeting, we identified ourselves as political opposites; Karen Cotter as a liberal with an academic background in conflict resolution and someone who tries to advocate for social justice in her community, while Karen Ward shared her story of being a conservative, born again evangelical Christian and a retired police officer.  Together they decided to join Braver Angels and a short time later organized their first workshop.  Very quickly into their Braver Angels work, they developed the moniker of “The Karens!”  

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