Can a house divided, still stand? Abraham Lincoln posed that question back in 1858. Now, it’s at the center of a new initiative more than a century later.

Learning new perspectives, understanding the other side and even finding common ground are the hopes and mission of A House Divided, a project sponsored by Advancing Voices of Women (AVOW) and WANE 15.

“Our nation is so divided and we need to create a way in the public square and in government that we are closer together, Marilyn Moran-Townsend, a co-founder of AVOW said.

Staring in March and through the November presidential election, AVOW and WANE 15 will host candid, civil conversations about some of the hottest issues most dividing our country right now. WANE 15’s Alyssa Ivanson will moderate the discussions.

“Education, immigration, impeachment, gun control. All kinds of topics that are difficult to talk about see if we can find ways to, if not agree with each other, at least understand each other,” Moran-Townsend said.

Twelve women, with different backgrounds and in different life stages, will represent Republican, Democrats and Independents. Six of the 12 will be on a panel for each topic, and the mix of which six will change with each topic.

“I hope the community learns when we do come together and have thoughtful discussions they don’t have to be harsh. They don’t have to back away from tough topics. They can be thoughtful and lead others to understand someone else’s opinion besides their own,” Moran-Townsend said. “This country will not stand if we don’t figure out a way to cross and med this deep divide we have. I can’t think of anything more important for the nation to do and I’m so proud we’re doing it in Northeast Indiana.”

Meet the Panelists:

The Independents

Karen is a full-time college student. She and her family immigrated to the United States in 2016 from Mexico. Her father received his TN visa, then his H1B visa. When I turned 21 she changed her visa to an F-1, which categorized her as an international student. Some of Karen’s community activities include free tutoring, Big Brothers Big Sisters and volunteer bible teacher at her parish.

Emily was born in central Kentucky, lived in several countries as a missionary kid, then relocated to Indiana to attend Grace College, where she studied International Business and French and went on to complete an MBA. She is a DevOps Engineer at INdigital, the industry leader in Next-Gen 9-1-1 network deployment and operation. As a Type 1 diabetic, she works alongside T1International to lead the Indiana chapter of #insulin4all, an advocacy organization that fights for legislation that will make insulin accessible and affordable to all Hoosiers whose lives depend on it.

Dara is a dermatologist. She and her husband have three sons. She is active in her church and community, most recently by running a successful campaign for the 2019 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year for Northeast Indiana.

Abby is a junior at Purdue Fort Wayne, majoring in political science and economics. Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Abby graduated from Bishop Luers High School as salutatorian of her class. She hopes to advance her academic career by attending graduate school and potentially working in the nonprofit field after graduation. Abby previously interned at a local all-female law firm.

The Democrats

Harini was born and raised in India, where she earned her bachelor’s at St. Francis College and master’s in history from the University of Hyderabad. She was married at 22, moved to the United States in 1993 and calls herself a “professional homemaker.” She has two adult children. Harini moved to Fort Wayne in July 2015 and enjoys being involved in social, community and political activities.

Ann taught students at Canterbury for 25 years, primarily expanding their understanding and appreciation of math. This Hanover graduate got her masters from Purdue, majoring in English and minoring in Math. Now retired, Ann takes joy in her service as a parent and grandparent. Ann loves problem-solving, which explains her love of mysteries, jigsaw puzzles and board games. She agreed to join the House Divided project because she is concerned about the deep divisions and unsolved problems of this country.

Roxanna is a 20-year UAW Local 2209 member who relocated from Kokomo 13 years ago to work at the Fort Wayne GM plant. She lives in Roanoke with her husband and has two teenage step-children. Roxanna has a BS in psychology from Ball State University; before working for GM, she was a human resources manager and a restaurant manager. Roxanna has been active in politics since 2012 when the Indiana State Democratic Convention was held in Fort Wayne and currently is Second Vice President of the Indiana Federation of Democratic Women.

Laura is a local small business owner who moved to Fort Wayne over 25 years ago. She identifies as a Democrat and supports a progressive political agenda. She received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and has worked in the landscaping field for over 20 years. She serves as president of the NE Chapter of the Indiana Native Plant Society. She is married and has two daughters.

The Republicans

Diane is a Christ-follower, wife, mother and grandmother. She retired from Fort Wayne Community Schools after 24 years of service. She enjoys serving in her church, traveling, reading, cooking and baking. She strives to live daily by her motto: Serve, work hard, be kind, stay humble.

Aimmie is a caregiver to her husband Andrew, a four-time combat veteran who lives with a TBI, PTSD and nerve damage; together, they have three children. She is a case manager at The Shepherd’s House and served as the 2018-2019 Elizabeth Dole Foundation Caregiver Fellow. Aimmie holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Liberty University.

Nicole earned a degree in political science from Indiana University and is a graduate of the Lugar Series. She previously was a field organizer for the Republican National Committee and a scheduler in the Washington, D.C., office of Congressman Jim Banks. She also helped Steve McMichael in his successful 2019 mayoral campaign in New Haven.

Amanda has been a resident of Fort Wayne since 1995, is a manager at credit union and obtained her bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2018. She is co-leader of the Fort Wayne Policy Circle and a Committee Chairperson for the Policy Circle’s Indiana State Leadership Council. Amanda is an advocate and volunteer for several area nonprofits and political campaigns, and she serves as a Precinct Committeeperson for the Allen County GOP. She has a 16-year-old son.

Since it’s creation in 2017, AVOW has hosted dozens of civil conversations in the community and produced more than a hundred weekly opinion pieces in the newspaper.