Skip to main content

Critical Conversations: Civic Friendship, Divisive Topics, and Democratic Discourse with the Bill of Rights Institute

Community Conversation
This event has passed

Some conversations just need to happen.

Join us for a series of virtual community discussions inspired by the legacy of the US Constitution and the themes behind our free exhibition We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy. Become part of the conversation, share your thoughts on constitutional issues that affect us all, and hear from thought leaders in civic organizations from across the nation.

This month, we’re exploring how to manage, connect, and build community with people who disagree with us. Presented in partnership with the Bill of Rights Institute, panelists David Bobb, PhD; Danielle Allen, PhD; Ashley Berner, PhD; and Jessica Culver will look at how to handle divisive topics through civic friendship. Rather than avoiding or banning divisive topics, we’ll look a how “we the people” can actively engage them and build civil discourse without squashing disagreement.

Free, tickets required. Reserve your spot online or with Guest Services at (479) 657-2335 today.
Once registered, you’ll receive an email with information about the event and the Zoom link for your convenience.

Presented in partnership with the Bill of Rights Institute.


About the Speakers

David Bobb, PhD

David Bobb

David Bobb joined the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) as president in 2013. A nationally recognized leader in civic education, David has worked for 25 years to build strong civic learning programs that engage the hearts and minds of young people.

BRI is among the nation’s leading providers of free, open education resources and professional development programs for secondary school teachers of American civics and history. Previously David worked for twelve years at Hillsdale College, where as founding director of the Washington, DC-based Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship he created educational resources and programs accessed by millions of Americans. Author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue (HarperCollins, 2013), and a chapter on Frederick Douglass in a recent volume (Oxford University Press, 2019), David has written for publications including The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company, and is currently writing a book on the future of civics. He earned a PhD in political science from Boston College.


Danielle Allen, PhD

Danielle Allen

Danielle Allen, PhD, is James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. She is a professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy. She is also a seasoned nonprofit leader, democracy advocate, national voice on pandemic response, distinguished author, and mom.

Danielle’s work to make the world better for young people has taken her from teaching college and leading a $60 million university division to driving change at the helm of a $6 billion foundation, writing as a national opinion columnist, advocating for cannabis legalization, democracy reform, and civic education, and most recently, to running for governor of Massachusetts. During the height of COVID-19 in 2020, Danielle’s leadership in rallying coalitions and building solutions resulted in the country’s first-ever Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience; her policies were adopted in federal legislation and a Biden executive order.

Danielle made history as the first Black woman ever to run for statewide office in Massachusetts. A past chair of the Mellon Foundation and Pulitzer Prize Board, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As a scholar, she currently concentrates on the Democratic Knowledge Project, housed at the Safra Center, and on the Democracy Renovation Project, housed at Harvard’s Ash Center. In her role as board chair for Partners In Democracy, she continues to advocate for democracy reform to create greater voice and access in our democracy, and drive progress towards a new social contract that serves and includes us all. She also serves on the board of the Cambridge Health Alliance. Her many books include the widely acclaimed Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence In Defense of Equality; Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.; Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus; and the forthcoming Justice by Means of Democracy. She writes a column on constitutional democracy for the Washington Post.


Ashley Berner, PhD

Ashley Rogers Berner

Ashley Berner is the Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Associate Professor of Education. She served previously as the Deputy Director of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy and as an administrator at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia.

Palgrave MacMillan released Pluralism and American Public Education: No One Way to School (2017), and Dr. Berner has published articles, book chapters, and op-eds on citizenship formation, academic outcomes, pluralism, and the political theories of education in different national contexts. She led the design of the Institute’s School Culture 360™ and ELA and Social Studies Knowledge Maps™. Her earlier teaching experience took place in a Jewish pre-school, an Episcopal secondary school, and an open university in Louisiana; she currently advises doctoral students and teaches in the master’s program at Johns Hopkins University.


Dr. Berner represents the Institute’s work across the country and consults regularly with international, federal, and state-level agencies, non-governmental organizations, and school systems. She held a five-year fellowship at the Center for the Study of Law & Religion at Emory University School of Law and currently serves as an advisor to iCivics, the Educating for American Democracy project, and the Heterodox Academy.

Dr. Berner holds degrees from Davidson College (Honors A.B.) and from Oxford University (M.Litt. and D.Phil. in Modern History).


Jessica Culver

Jessica Culver

Jessica Culver is an award-winning history, economics, and civics teacher at Ozark High School in Ozark, Arkansas. Currently in her 20th year of teaching, Culver is a Master Economics Teacher with Economics Arkansas, a Fulbright Teacher for Global Classrooms, a US Institute of Peace Teacher, a Bill of Rights Institute Teacher Council Member, an iCivics teacher, a National Geographic Certified Educator, a member of the National Constitution Center’s Teacher Advisory Council, a member of the Arkansas Jump Start Board for personal finance, and a former National Master Educator with Take Charge Today.

Jessica received the Bessie B. Moore Award from Economics Arkansas for excellence in teaching economics and personal finance three times, was the 2021 Arkansas Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Outstanding Teacher, has received recognition from the Goethe Institut for her partnership with a classroom overseas, and was the 2021 Senior Division winner of the Harry Reidnour Outstanding Teacher of the Year for Arkansas and nominee for the nationwide Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year National History Day Award for her work with National History Day. Culver is currently in the ARTeacher Fellowship program, an initiative of the University of Arkansas in collaboration with the Walton Arts Center and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and recently served on the Educating for American Democracy Educator Task Force.



We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy is sponsored by Kenneth C. Griffin.

Learning and engagement programming for We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy is sponsored by

Scholastic, Walmart, and Tyson Family Foundation logos

Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr. Foundation | Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates, & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. | Johnny and Jeanie Morris, Bass Pro Shops | Alturas Foundation | Harriet and Warren Stephens, Stephens Inc. | Sotheby’s | Bob and Becky Alexander | Marybeth and Micky Mayfield | Lamar and Shari Steiger | Jeff and Sarah Teague / Citizens Bank | Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities | Avis and Bill Bailey | Scarlett and Neff Basore | June Carter Family | Terri and Chuck Erwin | Jackye and Curtis Finch | The Harrison and Rhonda French Family | Jim and Susan von Gremp | Laurice Hachem | Shannon and Charles Holley | Valorie and Randy Lawson / Lawco Energy Group | Donna and Mack McLarty | Steve and Susan Nelson | Neal and Gina Pendergraft | Helen Porter | JT and Imelda Rose | Lee and Linda Scott | Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Catherine and Michael Mayton, Trustees | William Reese Company