Wage peace with UnDebate.Us

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Brittany Swanson. Alex Cequea and Emlyn Lee at the UnDebate.Us Launch.

This week, a new cause, UnDebate.Us, debuted two days after a robust Archives Bazaar and a heart-warming Hyde Park Reunion.


Brittany Swanson. Alex Cequea and Emlyn Lee at the UnDebate.Us Launch. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

UnDebate.Us Premiere Party. The timing could not be more pivotal. One day before what is sure to be another toxic presidential debate, a new Austin group revealed its mission to restore trust and kindness to civic discourse. Founded by Brian Cooper and Kellie Jetter, UnDebate.Us aims to apply five integrated components to new norms — emphasis on empathy training — for productive dialogue in schools, businesses and communities. Several dozen snappily dressed influencers gathered at the South Congress Hotel to toast the idea, heralded by philanthropist — and quite the idea man himself — Tom Meredith. After an hour of planned program, however, several otherwise sharp guests still couldn’t figure out how an UnDebate works, or what was expected of us at this launch party. But we’re all ears. Anything would be better than our currently deteriorating national climate of civility.


Eric Moya and Shannon Hildenbrand at the surprisingly lively Archive Bazaar. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Austin Archives Bazaar. This shockingly lively event grouped agents from 26 area archives in the old Saengerrunde Halle, while authors and archivists presented their research cases to guests at picnic tables in the Scholz Garten. Now some of these repositories — such as the Austin History CenterBriscoe Center for American History, Benson Latin American Collection and Ransom Center — I’ve used for decades. Others, like the LBJ Presidential Library, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory and Texas General Land Office, I’ve cracked open only in the past few years. There’s so many more! Then there are those I didn’t know existed, including those dedicated to Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian records. I’m especially looking forward to accessing the Carver Genealogy Center and following one person’s pursuit of ancestors.


David and Marjorie Blackstock at Hyde Park Reunion. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman.

Hyde Park Reunion. The eighty-somethings lived within a few houses of each other in Hyde Park during the 1930s and ’40s. Several of their fathers were called up for duty during World War II, and several had served in the Korean War themselves. They attended Baker and Lee schools, University Junior High, Austin High and, religiously, the University of Texas. “It was right across the street,” remarked one of merry group that assembled in the Northwest Hills area for their fourth reunion. All told, more than a dozen guests in their ninth decades — sharing the expected medical complaints, but, all told, in robust shape — talked into the evening about cherished Austin memories and more recent adventures. While all this — and barbecue — was going on, I interviewed seven lifelong companions. Look for a story in December.

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