PSPPI header - Kornfield

April 06, 2022

Debates expert to discuss civil discourse, political depolarization

CARBONDALE, Ill. — April Kornfield, the director of debates for Braver Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to depolarizing American politics, is set to speak next week in a virtual event hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Kornfield, who designed Braver Angels Debate, will sit down with John Shaw, institute director, at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, for a virtual conversation about how civil discourse — and civil disagreement — can help heal America’s political divides.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required at

Braver Angels was created after the 2016 election with the goal of strengthening democracy by decreasing political polarization. Kornfield leads the organization’s Debate and Public Discourse Program. Kornfield joined Braver Angels at its founding and designed its debate format to encourage everyone to speak while upholding civility, especially in disagreements.

“Many are now lamenting the weaknesses of our democracy,” Shaw said. “In her work with Braver Angels, April Kornfield is strengthening our democracy by helping us relearn the skill — and necessity — of civil debate and constructive disagreement.”

In an essay published in the online magazine Comment, Kornfield wrote that Braver Angels Debate “helps people build relationship through structured conflict driven by deep differences, and to love people for their alternate moral bases, not in spite of them.”

Kornfield previously provided research and editing for David Brooks’ weekly New York Times columns, and she co-founded Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute. She is originally from Kansas and studied anthropology at Yale University.

Attendees are encouraged to send questions for Kornfield with their registration form or by email to

This event is part of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s Understanding Our New World virtual conversation series with government and private sector leaders, policy experts, political analysts, authors, and journalists.