In Person

Why We Need to Build and Bridge

A talk by Eboo Patel, followed by discussion with john a. powell and Allison Briscoe-Smith.

April 25, 2023 | 7-8:30pm

International House, University of California, Berkeley


At a time of deep social polarization and division, it is easy to lose hope in the potential for positive social change and a more diverse and just democracy. But for the past 20 years–inspired by love-based activists like John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Thich Nhat Hanh–Eboo Patel has defied this kind of pessimism to build Interfaith America, an organization that promotes constructive dialogue and understanding across group lines.

In his latest book, We Need to Build, Patel writes: “The goal of social change is not a more ferocious revolution, it is a more beautiful social order… We defeat the things we do not love by building the things we do.” He goes on to emphasize that a diverse democracy requires people of all identities to have a stake in the success of the whole, not just their particular community. Building bridges is an essential skill that everyone should hone. 

In this talk, Patel will share what he has learned about why and how to bridge differences in order to create a more just and inclusive society. He will stress the importance of not only rejecting the things we don’t like but of forming a positive vision of the things we want to achieve–then finding collaborative pathways to building them. His talk will draw on ideas from We Need to Build, which Van Jones has called “a blueprint and a guidebook for an inclusive twenty-first-century democracy.”

After his talk, Patel will be joined by john a. powell, the director of UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute and the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion, and Allison Briscoe-Smith, a senior fellow at the university’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) and the co-instructor of the GGSC’s popular online course, Bridging Differences. Together they will discuss why it is so vital to bridge differences today, on college campuses and beyond; the challenges to bridging work; and constructive strategies for building communities centered on justice, inclusion, and belonging. Their conversations will be followed by Q&A with the audience.