“Thank God Debilyn is on West Coast time, because my wife is uninterested in talking with me at 3am.” + “Pearce is like an annoying younger brother who started following me around and playing with my friends.”
As two leaders in a network of organizations that advocate for “listening” and “civility,” this pair shows first hand just how hard it is to walk the talk (and just how much forgiveness may be involved). Debilyn was a civil discourse visionary before Pearce was legal. She co-founded both Living Room Conversations and Bridge Alliance – in between which she was the first Executive Director, and later President of Coffee Party USA.
Pearce founded Listen First while he was getting an MBA. Apparently neither of them need sleep.
Their story began when Pearce found out there was a whole community of people already doing the work he thought needed doing and that Debilyn was the person in-the-know about all of it. Pearce pushed Debilyn’s buttons (literally and figuratively — Pearce called her and then he just kept on calling her). Before they knew it they were sharing the stage at a major event hosted by Pearce’s new organization.
How’d that happen? They’re still not sure. But the friendship stuck.
Debilyn is an intense, nurturing, Radar-like, Calvanist, height challenged, generalist, label-averse, visionary. She is a Transformational Partner of the Bridge Alliance, Coffee Party, and Living Room Conversations. She facilitates real conversations with real people on the daily.
Pearce on Debilyn: Debilyn is a hero; a very sassy hero. Thank God she is on West Coast time, because my wife is uninterested in talking with me at 3am. Debilyn is not only my constant inspiration but also my rock of wisdom in navigating the treacherous waters of effecting social change.
“She expertly practices what I preach, listening first to my spastic monologues with patience and grace, even while delivering me 5 minute warnings.” — Pearce on Debilyn
When I’m banging my head against the trees, Debilyn always sees the forest, and then envisions a future no one else yet sees. She embodies the human center of revitalizing America, the quiet yet forceful wind beneath so many wings.
Pearce is a mission-driven, silly, adventurous, Christian, passionate, gregarious, optimistic, intense, catalyst. He is the founder of the Listen First Project, yet calls himself a “bad listener.” (Humor, grace, humility and irony, all in one dude.)
Debilyn on Pearce: Pearce is like an annoying younger brother who started following me around and playing with my friends. He talks a lot — and sometimes I give in to his persistence, just so he’ll be quiet for 5 minutes.
“I’ve designated him an honorary snowflake.” Debilyn on Pearce
He tells me he’s a conservative, but he’s so compassionate and caring about others, I’ve designated him an honorary snowflake. He accepts this with good grace because, well, he’s Pearce – a man with the biggest heart I’ve ever been blessed to witness.
A little more on the history of their Unorthodox Friendship: Pearce explains that after beating down Debilyn’s door (repeatedly and with endurance), he was finally let in to her super cool Bridge Alliance club (thanks partly to affirmative action for conservative bridge builders). And Pearce just kept calling Debilyn, asking for little things that were easy to give; her advice, a referral, a donation. Next thing they know, she’s Mama Bear and he’s Bear Cub. And now she can’t shed him (not that she would want to). They’ve had a blast partnering – from very different perspectives – on the execution of each other’s visions, including most recently, in the National Week of Conversation kicked off by Listen First in Charlottesville.
Their Talk 1.0: “Righteousness + Relationships: How our need to be right is wrecking our relationships (and making us unhappy). For this talk Debilyn, a marketing whiz kid, will let you in on trade secrets of people who sell us things use to manipulate us (they deliver short-term hits of dopamine that we get so addicted to that we begin to seek the “high” instead of the long-term happiness that comes from relationships). Then she’ll disagree a lot with Pearce who’s really hard to manipulate (he’s the “bangs head”), but she’ll try anyway (she’s the “sees forests.”) No, we’re only kidding. (Sort of.)
Their Talk 2.0: “Free Speech, Hate Speech, and Making the Time to Speak: Why sitting down with people you disagree with is literally the most important thing you can do as a citizen and a human being. It’s true that these days having political conversations seems fraught and full of downside risk – you might be called-out, you might lose friends and for sure you’re not going to have a lot of fun. So why not avoid them altogether? Well it turns out that the risks of not having political conversations may be much much higher. For this talk, Pearce will repeatedly bludgeon Debilyn with his opinions and Debilyn will show you why you should like it. No, we’re only kidding. (Sort of.)
Their Talk 3.0: “The National Conversation Project: Mending the Frayed Fabric of America. Here’s where you learn that when we’re connected to other people we’re smarter, more interesting and have more money in our pocket. Booyah. Sort of a capitalism meets socialism tete a tete smackdown, friendship added.
(You see now how it is they talk all the time, this is our pared-down our list of topics for these two.)
The time-space continuum to consider: Pearce is in North Carolina. Debilyn is in on the Left Coast.
What the pair would need to come to your school: Travel and hotel and an honorarium of $1000-5000 each. (We recommend you negotiate with Debilyn, taking Pearce’s MBA and hard-headedness into account.) They’ve made an accommodation for us that they’ll offer to do their talk for you before 3am, self-sacrificing pair that they are.
We are a diverse coalition of more than 80 respected established organizations, we are banding together to create great impact across three broad areas: civic engagement, governance and policymaking, and campaign and election processes.
In today’s hyper-polarized and tribal society, we can turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division by starting new conversations that bridge divides—move from ‘us vs. them’ to ‘me and you.’