Published October 27, 2022 by Tom Porter

Tackling Depolarization: Author and Journalist Mónica Guzmán ’05 Visits Campus

Guzmán describes herself as the proud liberal daughter of conservative Mexican immigrant parents. In a recent visit to campus, she recalled meeting with her parents after her first year at Bowdoin. “My dad was like ‘they’re brainwashing her; it’s one big liberal experiment.’”

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Image: moniguzman.com

Guzmán and her parents became US citizens in 2000 and since then they have had some “extraordinary political conversations,” she said. “They voted for Donald Trump both times and would probably vote for him again. I did not.” Nevertheless, Guzmán continues to have intense and “rollicking good” discussions with her folks.

She was talking to Bowdoin faculty members at a recent discussion in which they were encouraged to practice asking questions and to talk to each other about how to engage—in a professional or a nonprofessional setting—with people whose worldview differs radically from their own. These conversational skills are explored in Guzmán’s book, I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times (2022). The skills embraced in the book, she said, apply to relationships with colleagues, students, communities, families, and friends.

Guzmán reflected on her experience at Bowdoin, where she recalled taking part in passionate, late-night political debates with fellow students. She studied sociology and film studies, and also talked about beginning her career as a journalist here, writing for The Bowdoin Orient. “It was a wonderful way to tap my own curiosity about people and start getting really fascinated with how much you can learn if you silence your own assumptions and just get somebody's story.”

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Mónica Guzmán talks with Bowdoin faculty.

This dedication to storytelling led to a distinguished career in journalism, which in 2016 saw Guzmán awarded a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. “Journalism I take very seriously… as a personal mission to help people understand each other,” she told faculty. However, she added, it got to the point where society became so fractured that no amount of journalistic storytelling was going to help us understand each other. Guzmán said she came to the conclusion that “something has to happen with the foundational brokenness underneath.”

This realization led her into the nonprofit world and to Braver Angels—a grassroots organization dedicated to depolarization—where she is director of digital and storytelling. It also provided her with the impetus to write her book, which was published in March this year.

 

Watch A Fireside Chat with Mónica Guzmán below.


As well as meeting with faculty during her visit to Bowdoin earlier this month, Guzmán also held conversations with students and took part in a public discussion in front of the Bowdoin community.