Delighted or Distressed: A Post-Election Conversation


On November 7th, members of the Luther community gathered for a discussion about the results of the 2020 presidential election in an event that was coordinated by the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE). The event was titled “Delighted or Distressed: a Post-Election Conversation,” and aimed to promote community in a time of political tension.
Assistant Director of the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement Krista Holland was one of the main organizers of the dialogue, and saw the event as an opportunity to provide a safe space for all reactions to the result of the election.
“Anticipating this particular election and knowing what is going into it, and how difficult it’s been with the current state of views and the polarization that people feel around the country, we wanted to take time to acknowledge these things,” Holland said. “[We wanted to] provide space for campus to be in community with one another during a time where people might feel frustrated, alone. Just a place to process emotions at this time.”
After opening remarks from President Ward and Peace Scholar Kimheang Chham (‘21), attendees were split into two groups, “delighted” and “distressed,” based on how they were feeling regarding election results. Peace Scholar Piper Wood (‘21) explained the purpose of these rooms.
“The goal of the event is to get folks into a room where they feel comfortable to talk about how they’re feeling about this very, very uncertain political world that we’re living in right now and process with other folks that share their same feelings,” Wood said. “And for that, we will have two separate rooms going on. They’re called the delighted and distressed because we didn’t want to put really hard-line political labels on what we’re doing.”
Those who identified with feelings of “delight” moved to the Center for Faith and Life, engaging in a dialogue facilitated by peace scholars Wood and Levi Bird (‘21), as well as Professor of History Victoria Christman. Meanwhile, participants who felt ‘distressed’ gathered in the Peace Dining Room, led by peace scholar Kimheang Chham and Professor of Philosophy Storm Bailey. Wood, Bird, and Chham are all trained in the Nansen method of dialogue, which informed how they moderated this event.
“Basically, dialogue is just a fancy way to say talking to one another, and we learn how to do that in a way that recognizes our implicit biases so we sit outside of what’s happening in the dialogue session,” Wood said. “In this specific dialogue method, which is the Nansen method, you really only ask clarifying questions, and you are working to understand and not to agree.”
In both breakout groups, attendees were encouraged to share their feelings and thoughts about the election. First, with a few other individuals, and then, with the larger group. Most expressed mixed feelings of both delight and distress, regardless of which group they decided to join. In addition, no one in attendance identified themselves as Republican or supporters of Donald Trump.
“I am very curious to see how maybe we can reach out to other students better to have a more inclusive and more understanding environment here at Luther,” Chham said.
While the CEPE does not currently have any follow-up events planned, they believe this is just the beginning of a challenging conversation regarding how we live as a community during this post-election time.
“Try and listen more than you talk, which is hard to do sometimes, especially when in classrooms we are taught to always voice our opinions,” Chham said. “Listen more actively and more genuinely, and it’s ok to question where you stand.”

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