The Westport Library is striving to bring civility back to civic discourse with the launch of the Common Ground Initiative, Westport’s new forum for public discourse on issues of importance to the community.
The aim of the initiative is to host a positive, productive conversation on how we work together to move forward as a civil society, to encourage respectful, constructive dialogue, and to build capacity to tackle challenging and controversial issues.
The program planning for the initiative is led by The Westport Library in conjunction with community leaders representing a wide array of constituents and ideological standpoints.
“In recent years, and in so many capacities and on so many stages, we have witnessed a breakdown of decorum in public conversation and people focusing on that which divides us, not what unites us,” said Bill Harmer, Westport Library executive director. “We have seen that nationally as well as locally. But we have also witnessed, particularly in Westport, a great capacity for kindness, compassion, and compromise. It is those ideals that we want to strive for, and we look forward to the Common Ground Initiative in helping us find that balance.”
The Common Ground Initiative officially launches on Tuesday, May 2, at 7 pm with a conversation between Senator Roy Blunt and noted attorney Steve Parrish. Blunt will appear virtually, via the videowall in the Library’s Trefz Forum, while Parrish will appear in person.
In a public service career that has spanned nearly five decades, Blunt earned the respect of his peers and colleagues for his willingness to find common ground, make the legislative branch of the federal government work, and for achieving principled, bipartisan compromise.
“In every position he has held, Roy Blunt has shown the value of listening to others and working across the aisle to find common ground solutions for complicated problems," said Parrish.
Blunt was elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 1993 and served six consecutive terms before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, serving in the chamber from 2011 to 2023. His leadership roles in the Senate included vice chair of the Republican Conference (2012-18), chair of the Committee on Rules and Administration (2017-19), and chair of the Republican Policy Committee (2019-23).
Before serving in Congress, Blunt was a history teacher and a county official, and in 1984 he became the first Republican in more than 50 years to be elected as Missouri’s secretary of state. The senator also served four years as the president of his alma mater, Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.
Parrish is the founder of Steve Parrish Consulting Group, LLC, which specializes in crisis management, corporate social responsibility, public affairs, and communications for senior executives of corporations, law firms, and nonprofit organizations. Previously, he was senior vice president, corporate affairs, of Altria Group, Inc., and served as secretary of the Public Affairs and Social Responsibility Committee of the board of directors of Altria Group, Inc.
Parrish is a member of the board of trustees of Carleton College and the board of directors of Orchestra Lumos (formerly the Stamford [CT] Symphony Orchestra). He also is board member emeritus and past board chair of Safe Horizon, an internationally recognized leader in the field of victim assistance. His past board service includes the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation.