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Joan Blades moves on to MU

Zachary Staab
Assoc. News Editor

Joan Blades – author, teacher, Huffington Post blogger, attorney, entrepreneur, artist, and advocate for respectful discourse between citizens and politicians – was honored as Millersville University’s Innovator in Residence at the 2013 Human Rights Conference. At her first visit to the Keystone State, Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org, practiced her speech with students in Clair Performance Hall at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Afterward, the philanthropist enjoyed a luncheon with students, community members and staff in the Audubon room at Gordinier Hall.

Several student-run groups and non-profit organizations sold items for human rights initiatives.
Several student-run groups and non-profit organizations sold items for human rights initiatives.

At her rehearsal presentation with students, Blades discussed three initiatives: MoveOn.org, MomsRising.org and Living Room Conversations. Created in 1998, MoveOn is a liberal, nonprofit, politically active organization that made headlines in 2003 with its “Let the inspections work” campaign.
The movement against military interaction in Iraq was the “largest antiwar protest,” said Blades.
Blades reminisced on the inception of MoveOn, describing the organization as “unique back in 1998,” but now there are many groups with a viral component.
The discussion switched to MomsRising, which Blades founded to “work on issues that are not in the forefront of society.” MomsRising gives “mothers, and all who have mothers,” a voice in reforming issues like healthcare, living wage, flexible work options and paid family leave.
Author of “The Custom Fit Workplace”, a book about improving workplace conditions, Blades is a proponent for “High commitment workplaces,” to ensure everyone gets a job that fits in with their lifestyle. Talking about her visit to a Dr. Pepper plant that changes into a high commitment workplace, Blades said,
“I find it deeply meaningful when I hear stories of improvement in the workplace.”
The theme of Blades’ message focused on Living Room Conversations, a movement to replace debates with civil discussions, and whether or not it will have the same viral success as her previous initiatives.
“Everyone wants a viral campaign,” said Blades, “but most of the time that doesn’t happen.”
Blades is currently working on paving a path for her new initiative, Living Room Conversations, to enforce the importance of civil discussions, rather than debates.
She opened the floor for a question-and-answer session.
One question – “When you talk to people, why do you focus on emotions more than facts?
If I convince my conservative friend that climate change is a real problem, he might go back to his community and be shunned. Being shunned is the equivalent of death.”
Second question – “What is your take on unions?”
“Some unions are good, while others promote negative things,” said Blades.
Third question – “What about older folks, those who have retired, how do you encourage them in the same way?”
Question four – “As a mediator, what advice would you give to propose a discussion in a nonintrusive way?”
“Invite two friends over and rely on relationship building, not about having a debate, that’s arguing.” A compromise has been taken to be a lesser answer,” argued Blades, “but it’s actually a better answer.”
Blades was honored as MU’s Innovator in Residence at the 2013 Human Rights Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 at 7p.m. at the Clair Performance Hall.