Can we identify an American Creed that doesn’t make enemies of each other?

To the Editor:

I want to acknowledge the town of Westerlo supervisor and the three bipartisan town council members who took the time on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to attend a screening of the documentary film “American Creed” and the audience questions that followed.

Their presence at the event spoke volumes about their commitment to serve our town — not only because of the private time they gave up, but also because of their willingness to explore the challenges of political polarization.

The director of the Rensselaerville Library learned of a program that supported showing the film and initiating a series of community conversations. A collaborative effort by the library, Citizen Film, our local PBS channel WMHT, The Carey Institute for Global Good, the New York State Writers Institute, and a team of local residents brought the event to the Hilltowns.

In the film, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kennedy ask questions about the ideals we have in common and what it means to be an American. They are friends who don't share the same race, religion, or political party. Their questions weave through the stories of people committed to preserving certain principles and striving to bring communities together across deepening divides.

The film and follow-up conversations may help us work through some disagreements, gain understanding, and find ways to preserve our shared hopes, dreams, and values.

If we define creed as a system or code of beliefs, can we, together, identify an American Creed that doesn’t make enemies of each other? One that strengthens our connection with each other? One that generates mutual trust and accountability, and a sense of belonging, purpose and community engagement? 

Over 50 people attended this event, hosted by the Carey Institute, including several other Westerlo residents, and people from Rensselaerville, Berne, Albany, and elsewhere.

Peace is hard work. It requires fairness and justice. It requires profound listening and constant attention because conflicts, grievances, injury, and different points-of-view are inevitable.

My hope is that other government officials will follow Westerlo’s lead and consider these issues, and that ordinary citizens will find the courage to engage in meaningful conversation with each other. We may find that we have more in common than we thought, and that we may learn something from the values held by others.

On Sept. 21 at 2 p.m., the Rensselaerville Library will host a Living Room Conversation, which is a simple way to heal divides, developed by dialogue experts in order to facilitate connection between people despite their differences. (More information at:

Hope to see you there, or maybe over coffee or tea in a living room welcoming such conversation.

Thank you for listening to me. 

Dianne Sefcik


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