With Malice Toward None

“With malice toward none, with charity for all…” – Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

The Challenge 

November 4, the day after the Presidential election, could be the most divisive day in modern U.S. history—no matter who wins. 

People on the losing side will have a wide range of emotions ranging from intense disappointment to grief, rage, and despair. The temptation will be to avoid, ostracize, or attack people on the winning side. 

People on the winning side will feel vindicated. The temptation will be to act triumphantly towards those on the other side. People will worry about how the “losers” will treat them. 

In other words, November 4 could begin a dark time of polarization in the land—unless we act together to make it otherwise. 

The Opportunity 

That’s where the With Malice Toward None initiative comes in. 

We the People will have both the opportunity and the responsibility to seize the post-election moment by bringing many Americans together in our faith communities, civic groups, and colleges.  

The goal is to create a space for people to deal with their emotions (positive and negative), to build our capacities for working together to address our common challenges, and to commit ourselves to a renewed citizenship. 

This is not about covering over strong political differences or encouraging people to support whoever wins the election. 

It is about a commitment to respecting the humanity of those who differ from us. It is about recognizing our foundational role as citizens to be the architects and agents of a more perfect union.  

What Happens in the Days Before and After Election Day? 

Religious congregations

Incorporate With Malice Toward None into your regular services just before Election Day.

For congregations that want to go deeper after incorporating into your regular services:

1) Separate gatherings in the days after Election Day: one for those happy with the election’s outcome, and one for those unhappy with the election’s outcome.  

2) Follow up (if possible) with a joint gathering in late November or early December that brings together the people happy with the election’s outcome AND the people unhappy with the election’s outcome. 

Colleges and universities

Hold a With Malice Toward None event on your campus in the days after Election Day.

1) Separate gatherings in the days after Election Day: one for those happy with the election’s outcome, and one for those unhappy with the election’s outcome.  

2) Follow up (if possible) with a joint gathering in late November or early December that brings together the people happy with the election’s outcome AND the people unhappy with the election’s outcome. 

Civic groups

Hold a With Malice Toward None event for your group in the days after Election Day.

Incorporate With Malice Toward None themes into your regular gathering after Election Day.

About With Malice Toward None Events 

  • Braver Angels will provide participating organizations a meeting template that includes songs, readings, talking points for community leaders, and a call to commit to action steps.   
  • Participating groups will have the opportunity to enhance the Braver Angels meeting template with their own words, traditions, and rituals.    
  • These meetings will give people a collective opportunity to deal with strong emotions and move through them towards commitment to holding malice towards none. 

What Happens Afterwards? 

  • We envision With Malice Toward None groups connecting with other communities who may differ from them and convening other events during Inauguration Week.  
  • From these gatherings would come plans to work with one another and with Braver Angels to build the capacity of We the People to depolarize our politics and solve our common problems. 

How Do I Sign Up? 

Register your organization’s With Malice Toward None event today.  

After you register, the following will happen: 

(1) You will receive a link to materials to support your event planning. 

(2)  Participate in an Orientation Meeting on Zoom with Braver Angels leaders and other leaders across American holding events.  

(3)  Invitations to participate in periodic Zoom meetings with other leaders across the country who are holding With Malice Toward None events.  

What People Are Saying 

“Regardless of who wins the 2020 election, it will be up to us as citizens and civic leaders to renew our commitment to building goodwill and civic friendship. That’s why I’m supporting the With Malice Toward None initiative by Braver Angels. I encourage civic leaders everywhere to join and get involved.”  

  • John Hewko, General Secretary and CEO of Rotary International, Braver Angels member 

“Americans will always hold strong, passionate views on important issues in the public square. This is essential for a vibrant democracy. But we must also, as much as possible, treat our fellow citizens with honor and respect in this midst of our disagreements, assuming their best intentions. With Malice Toward None is an intelligent and strategic effort to help all citizens do this the best we can as our nation navigates the results of our nation’s coming election.” 

  • Glenn T. Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family and Braver Angels board member.

“What we are facing in our country is increasing polarization, which leads to political, emotional and spiritual paralysis.  With Malice Towards None is daring to move from polarization to tension which, if identified and respectfully lifted up, can become a creative space for people to move forward into deeper relationships and greater understanding.   WMTN is inviting people to live into that hope.”

  • Mark Beckwith, retired Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Newark; co-chair, Braver Angels Partnerships

“I support With Malice Toward None because civility is a prerequisite for democracy. Tribalism cannot descend into tribal warfare if we’re going to have civil society, the cornerstone to make communities liveable.”

  • Bob Woodson, Founder and President, The Woodson Center

“The With Malice Toward None project provides young people with exactly what they have been yearning for in a world full of hatred, half-truths, and lack of humanity – a source of hope…. We hope that our society has the capacity to envision a democracy in which people are heard and valued as human beings with their own backgrounds, values, and beliefs.”

  • Ali Oosterhuis, Citizen Student Movement

“The digital ecosystem in which so much of our public debate takes place tends to reduce discourse to soundbites, hashtags, and memes and to exacerbate partisan divides. But the health of our civic life depends on substantive discussion in which we listen to and learn from those with whom we disagree. With Malice Toward None promises to make space for us to imagine civic and political life outside tired partisan stereotypes.”

  • Jeffrey Bilbro, Editor-in-Chief at Front Porch Republic

Learn More about the Initiative 

Click here for a one-page description about With Malice Toward None.   

Click here to learn more about the core values of and expectations for With Malice Toward None events.   

Click here for a Google Slides Presentation on With Malice Toward None

Got questions? Reach out to David Lapp at [email protected]