With Malice Toward None

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

With Malice Toward None is an initiative to heal America in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Religious congregations, colleges, civic organizations, and small groups of friends and neighbors are invited to organize gatherings (online or in-person) for their members during the post-election period. In these gatherings, Americans consider how they want to regard their fellow citizens who voted differently and begin building the capacity of We the People to forge “a more perfect union” moving into 2021.

With Malice Toward None

The challenge

The period following the 2020 presidential election is a divisive time for America. 

People who are displeased about the election may have a wide range of emotions ranging from intense disappointment to grief, rage, and despair. The temptation will be to avoid, ostracize, or attack those on the other side.

People who are pleased about the election may feel vindicated. The temptation will be to act triumphantly towards those on the other side. 

Both sides may worry about how people on the other side will treat them. 

In other words, this post-election period could be 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 have both the opportunity and the responsibility to seize the post-election moment by bringing many Americans together in our religious communities, colleges, civic groups, and friend groups. 

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 a particular candidate or party. 

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 you / your organization can do

Sign up your organization or small group to participate in With Malice Toward None gatherings after the election has been decided.   

About these gatherings:

  • Braver Angels provides participating organizations meeting templates, talking points and themes to consider, trainings for facilitators, and other resources.
  • These gatherings will give people a collective opportunity to deal with strong emotions and move through them towards commitment to holding malice towards none.
  • All of the gatherings can be carried out virtually or in-person.
  • All resources are provided free of charge; there is no cost for participating in the initiative.

Religious congregations

Weave the With Malice Toward None message into a regular service, and for those congregations that want to go deeper, convene special post-election gatherings: the first with separate gatherings of people who are generally pleased with the presidential election and those who are generally displeased with the election, and the second with a joint gathering of the two.

Braver Angels provides a 3-step plan for your congregation to participate in. Congregations have the flexibility to participate in a way that make senses for them. 

The 3-Step Plan for Congregations:

  1. Weave the With Malice Toward None message into a regular service. After you register your congregation for the WMTN initiative, we will provide a list of sermon talking points, a prayer, and themes to consider.
  2. Separate gatherings for your congregation in the weeks after Election Day: one for those generally pleased with the election’s outcome, and one for those who are generally displeased.  The goals are to acknowledge and transform congregants’ core experience of the election, to commit to regarding and treating fellow citizens who voted differently with respect for their human worth and dignity, and to commit to action steps in their personal lives and community.  We provide a template for how to structure and facilitate this gathering, with room for each congregation to adapt to their specific congregation and religious tradition.
  3. A joint gathering a week or two after the initial one–but this time bringing both groups  together (the pleased and displeased).  The goals are to better understand each other and commit to moving forward as religious people and citizens working together on our country’s problems.  We provide a template for how to structure and facilitate this gathering, with room for each congregation to adapt to their specific congregation and religious tradition. We also provide training to the facilitators of this gathering. Note: if your congregation is mostly the same politically, it’s fine if you can’t hold this joint gathering. You can still hold the first gathering for your congregants who feel the same way about the presidential election. 

All resources are provided free of charge.

Click here to register your congregation and receive access to resources and assistance.

Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN (Evangelical, nondenominational church)

They are doing a four-week sermon series on With Malice Toward None in October. This will include a Braver Angels moderator interviewed in front of the congregation after the first Sunday sermon and sermon discussion groups each Tuesday evening. The sermon series culminates on the fourth Sunday with the pastor setting the stage and a Braver Angels moderator interviewing four members of the congregation: two who plan to vote for Trump and two who plan to vote for Biden.

Colleges and Universities

Engage students as active co-creators and invite their leadership. After the election, hold two With Malice Toward None gatherings on your campus: the first with separate gatherings of people who are generally pleased with the presidential election and people who are generally displeased with the election, and the second with a joint gathering of the two.

The Plan for Colleges and Universities:

  1. After the election, separate gatherings for your campus in the weeks after Election Day: one for those generally pleased with the presidential election, and one for those who are generally displeased. The goals are to acknowledge and transform students’ core experience of the election, to commit to regarding and treating fellow campus members and citizens who voted differently with respect for their human worth and dignity, and to commit to action steps in their personal lives and community.  We provide a template for how to structure and facilitate this gathering, with room for each college to adapt to their specific college and traditions.
  2. A joint gathering a week or two after the initial one–but this time bringing both groups  together (the pleased and displeased).  The goals are to better understand each other and commit to moving forward as citizens working together on our country’s problems. We provide a template for how to structure and facilitate this gathering, with room for each college to adapt to their specific campus. We also provide training to the facilitators of this gathering. 

All resources are provided free of charge.

Click here to register your college/university and receive access to resources and assistance

St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI (Catholic college)

Braver Angels is conducting a kick-off keynote about With Malice Toward None Zoom all faculty and staff, Depolarizing Within workshops for all faculty and staff, a variety of BA workshops for students prior to the election (including 1:1 Red/Blue Conversations) and plans for many students to be involved in two post-election gatherings.

Luther College in Decorah, IA

They are having every first-year student take the BA Skills for Bridging the Divide e-course and then having RA-led conversations in the dorms. They will also have many students participate in two post-election gatherings.

Civic Groups

After the election, hold two With Malice Toward None gatherings: the first with separate gatherings of people who are generally pleased with the presidential election and people who are generally displeased with the election, and the second with a joint gathering of the two.

Braver Angels provides a 3-phase plan for how your organization can participate. Participating
organizations have the flexibility to participate for as much as makes sense for them. For instance, organizations could only participate in the first phase, or in all three phases.

  1. A presentation incorporating the themes of With Malice Toward None and presenting the opportunity to dive deeper.  The presentation could be about 15-30 minutes in length. The presentation would ideally be presented by someone within the organization, but if done online could also request for a Braver Angels Ambassador to deliver the presentation. 
  2. After Election Day, separate gatherings of people who are generally pleased with the presidential election and those who are generally displeased with the election. The goals are to acknowledge and transform one’s core experience of the election, to commit to regarding and treating fellow citizens who voted differently with respect for their human worth and dignity, and to commit to action steps in their personal lives and community. We provide a template for how to structure and facilitate this gathering, with room for each organization to adapt to their specific community and traditions.  
  3. A joint gathering a week or two after the initial one–but this time bringing both groups  together (the pleased and the displeased).  The goals are to better understand each other and commit to moving forward as citizens working together on our country’s problems. We provide a template for how to structure and facilitate this gathering, with room for each organization to adapt to their specific community. We also provide training to the facilitators of this gathering. 

All resources are provided free of charge. 

Click here to register your civic group and receive access to resources and assistance

Center for Vital Community in Sheridan, WY

A program of Sheridan College, they are a community organization that brings community members together. They are holding a Braver Angels debate in October on mask wearing and following up with two post-election WMTN gatherings.

After you register your organization or small group, the following will happen:

  1. You will receive a link to a Leader’s Resource page to support your planning, including templates of meetings and other resources.
  2. You will participate in an Orientation Meeting on Zoom with Braver Angels leaders and other leaders across America participating in the initiative.
  3. You will receive invitations to participate in periodic Zoom meetings with other leaders across the country who are participating in the initiative.

What Happens After Gatherings Are Held?

 You will have the opportunity to organize other Braver Angels workshops and debates in your community, including the following:

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
"The Union for Reform Judaism is proud to endorse With Malice Toward None, an initiative inspired by President Lincoln's exhortation, at a time when the nation was enduring its most significant divisions, that Americans act 'with malice toward none, with charity for all...'"
Barbara Weinstein
Union for Reform Judaism 

Take the pledge

Commit to not holding hate against fellow citizens no matter who wins or loses.

“Regardless of how the election turns out, I will not hold hate, disdain, or ridicule for those who voted differently from me. Whether I am pleased or upset about the outcome, I will seek to understand the concerns and aspirations of those who voted differently and will look for opportunities to work with people with whom I disagree.”

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