Author, lecturer and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson keynoted first night for the Lois & Walter Capps Project, a new Santa Barbara non-profit that seeks to address the existential threats posed by the epic cultural and political polarization of America.
“None of us are unaware of the critical times in which we live,” Williamson said at a small reception before delivering an address on behalf of the project at the Marjorie Luke Theatre. “None of us need to remind each other of the sense of critical threat to some of the things that we hold most dear."
The new project is underpinned by educational, religious and civic ideas and values entwined in the teaching and scholarship of the late Walter Capps while at UCSB, and later in his brief career as a citizen politician. The Capps's son, Todd, will lead the non-profit; he said in a statement the group will "serve as a seedbed" for local events and actions that encourage and enable “cross-boundary dialogue among a diversity of perspectives on issues of public concern at the community level, .”
Details about the project are still preliminary.
Williamson, a long-time family friend, is the 65-year old, highly successful author, public speaker and synthesizer of varied religious, therapeutic and New Age spiritual ideas and traditions and, more recently, politically progressive civic engagement.
In 2014, she finished fourth in a primary election for the Los Angeles congressional seat long held by Representative Henry Waxman, running as a Democrat in the liberal district and spending nearly $2 million of her own funds. The seat now is held by Rep. Ted Lieu. ,
At her pre-speech reception at the Capps home, Williamson warned that the new project would not succeed if it stopped merely at bringing together opposing, competing and crosscurrent voices for dialogue.
"As I understand the Lois and Walter Capps project…I think of it as an incubator for something extremely important.
And I tell you it’s not going to be enough that it’s just conversation among people who do not agree. And this is where I believe Walter’s religious orientation comes in.
Because when Bill Clinton said we were going to have a conversation about race, we all remember it, but we also remember it didn’t really go anywhere ultimately.
And I tell you why it didn’t really go anywhere. It didn’t go anywhere because when you have people with two or three hundred years of rage to express – if you don’t have therapists and religious and clergy and the type of people who know how to keep emotional safety in a conversation like that, it breaks down."
About three dozen guests attended the reception, co-sponsored by philanthropist Anna Gortenhuis, a group that included mayoral candidate Hal Conklin, former county school district superintendent Bill Cirone, economist Lannie Ebenstein, producer Rod Lathim, as well as Lois and Laura Capps.
Here’s a snippet from the private reception.