One America Community Efforts
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Program: National Conversation on Race, Ethnicity and Culture, Hartford, CT
Contact(s): Diane Jackson, Aetna Program Consultant: (860) 273-3483
Purpose: To conduct dialogues that will serve as models for civil, serious and honest exchanges among Americans of diverse backgrounds

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The National Conference, formally the National Conference on Christians and Jews, established the first National Conversation on Race, Ethnicity and Culture in 1995. (The National Conference has been identified by the President's Initiative on Race as a Promising Practice). The conversation was created to enlighten people about the various cultures that exist within society, to encourage and broaden dialogue among people who have limited interaction with those of different backgrounds, and to create more welcoming environments in the workplace and society at large. The National Conference, WFSB-TV (a local network affiliate) and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities joined with the primary sponsor, Aetna, Inc., for the 1997 National Conversation program. That program focused on building a more inclusive workplace and helping communities relate more effectively on matters related to race, gender, ethnicity and culture.

Program Operations

The creators of the National Conversation on Race, Ethnicity and Culture believed facilitated dialogues foster new, respectful relationships informed by a deepened understanding of the role prejudice and stereotyping have in discriminatory behavior. These conversations bring together distinguished panels of American leaders with a range of perspectives. Panelists are selected for their expertise in a certain field and/or their position as a highly visible public figure, with an eye toward creating a panel covering the liberal-conservative spectrum. Telecast nationally, the conversations allow panelists to openly share their opposing views on racism, discrimination and the propriety of inclusion. The two-hour program is a forum where these nationally recognized leaders address issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and engage viewers in open dialogue. Both the studio audience and other viewers, via satellite, are welcome to engage in the dialogues as active participants. The conversations provide panelists with a forum to discuss difficult issues that affect most Americans.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Following the National Conversation in 1997, 20 Aetna employees received diversity skills building and training. These employees succeeded in generating spin-off diversity dialogues among their workplace colleagues. The MetroHartford Millennium Committee partnered with the National Conference, the Connecticut Secretary of State's Office and the Metro Hartford Growth Council to incorporate the conversation project into the region's economic revitalization plan. These discussions culminated in major programs such as the Democracy Forum held by the Secretary of State's Office and a commemorative Martin Luther King Jr. Day program in selected communities around the country. The National Conversation in 1998, focusing on the impact of education and diversity in the workplace, was televised nationally to 145 locations, including offices at Aetna, the National Conference and Civic Network Television.

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