David Botkins and his conversation partner knew they had tripped onto some mutual experiences when they learned that they both had connections to the funeral home industry.  

Talk about finding common ground.  

“That was uncanny,” he remembers.  

From a relatively young age, David had an interest in politics, an interest that was often overlaid with communications and storytelling. While he says he has firmly held political beliefs, his convictions that people need to be involved in political discourse — irrespective of whether their views are shaded more red or blue — is stronger.  And the fact that more people are not engaged in civic matters disappoints him.

“Civic engagement is what informs and leads candidates to stand for election, and elections have consequences because they lead to public policy outcomes, which affect everybody,” he says.  “Good public policy leads to good quality of life. That matters to me, as it should for all of us.  We just disagree so much more than we used to, which is unfortunate because it hamstrings compromise.”

One of the things that attracted him to One Small Step is that he enjoys spirited debate, just so long as it stays respectful. He’s not interested in a force-fed agenda.  

“The theme of civilized discourse and agreeing to disagree without it becoming personal really resonated with me,” David says. “I was motivated by seeing if relational trust could be built outside of politics and the discussion of issues.  If you listen to our conversation, it was amazing how similar our life journeys have been. Having an open heart and an open mind can build relational trust—even a friendship—regardless of your politics.”

Turns out that the seeds of a budding friendship were, in fact, planted during the conversation, despite the fact that, at least on paper, the two were vastly different.  Here’s a middle-aged bachelor with no children, a Virginia native who grew up leaning right in Kentucky, while his conversation partner was an elderly widowed grandmother from the Midwest. She was politically liberal, and the two had little if anything in common across the political landscape.  

“We came into it with open hearts and open minds, and it was a great experience,” David recounts. “It’s hard to have a stage-managed conversation in real life, but the formal exercise showed me what we accomplished through One Small Step is indeed possible, if folks make the effort.  It says something positive about the human condition when two completely different people in every imaginable way can still find common ground. That in and of itself is redemptive and powerful.”

Listen to David’s full OSS conversation here.