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Classical Christian Movement

The Art of Dialogue and Productive Disagreement: The Aspen Method

By June 24, 2021January 10th, 2023No Comments

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The “Aspen Method” derives from the The Aspen Institute’s famed Executive Leadership Seminar. Founded in 1949 by Mortimer Adler and Robert Maynard Hutchins of the University of Chicago, Aspen’s Executive Leadership Seminar seeks to teach individuals and organizations the habits of civil discourse and productive disagreement.

This presentation offers an overview of what I have learned about how to have better dialogue through my experience at the Executive Leadership Seminar and as a participant in Aspen’s other programs. The lessons offered can be used generally–from the classroom, to the faculty meeting, to the boardroom, and beyond.

The Aspen Method provides the tools to tackle the most difficult topics with people with opposing points of view. It encourages us to think about a potentially heated conversation “not so much as a duel but a duet.” As Todd Breyfogle, the Managing Director of Aspen’s Executive Leadership Seminars, has put, it seeks “what we can agree on after we have really learned from each other.” The Aspen method shows us how to ask better questions and listen deeply in order to find mutual understanding and common ground. Thus, attendees will leave better equipped to have better conversations.

Andrew D. Graham

Andrew D. Graham is a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank whose mission is to promote religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. He is a regular presenter at universities, academic gatherings, and think tanks on law and religion. Previously, Andrew was a partner at Jackson Walker LLP, a more than 130-year-old law firm with more than 400 lawyers across Texas. In private practice, he achieved an extensive record of success in high-stakes litigation in both trial and appellate courts and was named a “Super Lawyers—Rising Star” multiple times. He is an elected member of the Mont Pelerin Society and the Philadelphia Society, and a member of the Federalist Society and the Society for Classical Learning. He also serves on the Advisory Council for the American Public Philosophy Institute (APPI). Andrew earned his bachelor’s degree at Southern Methodist University (SMU), where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and the Hyer Society. He then earned master’s degrees at Oxford University, where he was a member of Oriel College, and the University of Chicago before returning home to Texas to earn his law degree at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Andrew is a first-generation American and holds dual American–Australian citizenship. His wife Molly teaches fourth grade at The Covenant School in Dallas, Texas, where all three of their children have been educated.