Friday, Aug 22, 2014 05:36 pm est

National and community prosperity require rapport-building

Posted on April 18, 2013 | by Matt Braman

I recently attended An Evening with Rev. Jim Wallis and Arianna Huffington to listen to a discussion of issues explored by Jim Wallis in his new book, “On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good.” Wallis conveyed that Americans should revive an ancient premise from the Christian gospel — love thy neighbor as thyself — to find common ground for the common good. While the concept of the common good is open to interpretation, we must engage in a national dialogue to search for mutually beneficial and pragmatic solutions within our communities as individuals who live in partnership. He said, “We can do better, and we have to do better.”

Political polarization in Washington, D.C., and across the country limits our progress. We need the courage and civility to develop the best resolutions together for everyone and save future generations from collapse. Huffington and Wallis explained that “mindfulness” could help awaken our own individual selves in order to meaningfully tune in to the social environment and build rapport with others. Wallis said, “Don’t go left. Don’t go right. Go deeper.”

They encouraged people to develop trust within their communities and “transform the stranger into neighbor.” Such a shift in attitude and behavior can seem psychologically challenging for individuals who have embedded hostility towards “the Other.” I think we need to recognize that our historical ways of relating to others are now impractical, and we need a different way to conceptualize how individuals relate to one another. Our communities can benefit by helping others if we learn — as individuals — to love the people around us as our neighbor even if they are vulnerable, disagree with us or seem to live a culturally different lifestyle.

I interpret the common good as a reprieve from what seems to be a potentially permanent social crisis within our political-economic society. All too often, people say how America is the greatest nation on Earth, but I feel as if this is a lie. I want to believe that the United States and its people comprise that pillar of stability for the future of humanity. But I sense that interpersonal strife and shocking ideological gridlock form political divisions at federal, state and local levels that exacerbate and contribute to social and economic peril, which more adversely affects vulnerable American families and communities. Neuroscience helps us understand the brain’s ability to form new neural connections throughout life, called neuroplasticity. Interpersonal neurobiology helps us understand the mind’s ability to “inspire each other to rewire” empathic relationships.

We need to value the importance of human relationships and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. This shift could strengthen our families, communities, the globe and our spirits. In the words of Mr. Rogers, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Matthew W. Braman is a contributing columnist. He is also a master of social work candidate in the NYU Silver School of Social Work.


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.