The Republican Club of Longboat Key held its last meeting of 2021 with efforts to make "goodwill towards man" a reality in the Christmas season. On Dec. 14, club members gathered at Harbourside Ballroom for dinner and brought toys to donate to local children in need.
Before dinner, members sang a few Christmas carols to get in the holiday spirit. President Scott Gray was elected about a year ago and offered a brief rundown of 2021 in the RCLBK world. The club ends the year with 297 total members, 80 of who joined in the last year.
In lieu of just one speaker, the meeting had nine. It was the first panel discussion of the Miracle on the Key project between the Longboat Key Democratic Club and RCLBK. Four members from each club have been participating in the discussions that began in March 2021 and presented their findings from their across-the-aisle discussions. Racelle Weiman, an experienced voice in dialogue and genocide prevention across the world, resides in Sarasota and has been moderating the discussions with the members.
"We had her test her skills on us and they have been tested, to say the least," Gray said.
Members sat at a long table alternating between Democrat and Republican and spoke to their experiences over the year's meetings.
Weiman reiterated that the most important thing when coming to dialogue isn't talking, but listening. When members began the process, they listed things that mattered most to them. In the end, while some things were different, they came to a conclusion — they were all American citizens. Becky van der Bogert, a Democrat participant, said that you can't help but listen to someone once you get to know them.
"It's a risk because our own communities don't understand why we're doing this," Weiman said. "They're all devoted American citizens who want what's best for America."
Both sides agreed that a fractured media had led to more polarization, which drew applause from the crowd. After the panel discussion, Weiman took questions from the crowd. One attendee suggested measurable steps for the project to maintain their progress, while another commented on his own experience joining the League of Women Voters and how he'd had similar experiences to Miracle on the Key members.