From 1993 through 1996, Adrienne Kaufmann, OSB, was co-director of the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice, which until 1999 was a project of the international conflict resolution organization Search for Common Ground. Building on a dialogue process designed by Kaufmann, the network helped bring together groups of pro-life and pro-choice people in 20 cities nationwide for constructive conversation and work on issues such as reducing teen pregnancy. Kaufman is now the vocation director at Mother of God Monastery in Watertown, South Dakota. Sojourners associate editor
What was your reaction to President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame?
I am very pleased that he did not skirt the issue and that he did not inflate the issue to be the be-all and end-all of his relationship with Catholics or the Catholic Church. I believe he sincerely wants to work from the space of common ground and start where there are things they can work on together, not start with the contentious stuff. Those are the main things I heard and I thought that’s great.
Do you have any hope that we’re coming into a different moment in our political scene where dialogue could begin to happen, even within political settings?
I have some hope. My deepest hope is because I truly believe President Barack Obama is a man of integrity who can be taken at his word when he says we need to work on things we agree on. And when he says, as he did yesterday, that we need not to demonize each other. That was a very important piece of what he said. At the heart of the common ground experience is respectful speech and behavior and not demonizing. And being willing to open communication and explore areas of cooperation. He [President Obama] has certainly set a climate for that.
I think the legislative branch of the federal government has a ways to go.