Last November, Donald Trump was elected our 45th president, the leader of our nation—but you could say he became the leader of two nations. These United States are about as disunited as can be, split in half by two sets of very different, deeply held beliefs. In fact, in our 241-year history, we’ve rarely been so polarized. (The Civil War does come to mind....) It’s not just that we don’t see eye to eye on the issues, or that we differ along geographic, ethnic, or gender lines. It’s that our differences—and our disdain—seem to prevent us from even engaging with anyone who disagrees with us. Yet if we have any hope of healing our divisions, this is exactly what needs to change. That’s why I recently found myself at a diner in Maspeth, New York, ready to spend a Sunday morning talking about the state of our country with ten women I’d never met. They came from all walks of life. Their opinions ranged from hyperliberal to ultraconservative. Some of those opinions were shouted. Some were expressed through tears, and still others through song. (I’m not joking: At the end of our conversation, one of the women in attendance, Allison, who had played Diana Ross on Broadway, started singing “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”—and the rest of us wound up holding hands and singing along. It was that kind of day.) And what these women discovered after two hours of candid, compassionate discussion was what Maya Angelou knew all along: We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

Oprah: Thank you, everybody, for giving up your Sunday—Sundays are special, so I appreciate that. We’re meeting today because I want to hear how you’re feeling about what’s happening in our country. Where do you think we’re going, what makes you hopeful, what keeps you up nights? Let’s go around the table. Tell me who you are, where you come from, and who you voted for.

Sheila Menge: I’m married to my husband 33 years. I have two boys: One is in college, and the other is finishing up high school. I’ve worked at a steak house in Jersey for 18 years. I come from a big family—11 brothers and sisters. Mom and Dad came here from Ireland. I voted for Trump. I guess that should do it.

Sarina Amiel-Gross: I live in Long Beach, New York, and I’m a widow with a 19-year-old daughter. I work as a paralegal in Manhattan. I also voted for Donald Trump.

Allison Semmes: I’m 30 years old, from Chicago. I studied music all my life and I’ve been in a couple of Broadway shows, so I feel like I’m living my dream. I’m an artist, and that’s the power I feel I have in this world. I voted for Clinton, but I still think we have the power to shape what’s really going on.

Alicia Perez: I live in the Bronx. I’m married and have a small child at home. I also have a stepson. I work in the insurance industry, and I recently lost 80 pounds. I love spending time with my family, traveling, and being informed of what’s happening. I voted for Clinton.

Anum Khan: I’m 27, born and raised in Queens, living in Brooklyn. I got married in September. I spent a few years in Egypt, part of it as a Fulbright scholar. I work for the New York City Department of Education. I voted for Clinton.

Dawn Jones: I am a military brat—though my dad would correct me and say I was brought up in the military. I moved around my whole life, then married a Marine and moved around again. I’m dedicated to veterans. I happen to be a breast cancer survivor. I’m very passionate about healthcare. I voted for Trump.

Star Walters: Let’s see. I have a wonderful son, whom I raised as a single mom. I remarried a New York City fireman. I have two beautiful grandchildren. I’ve worked my whole life, since I was 14. I keep myself healthy; I did a triathlon recently. I’ve always tried to set an example for my son: If something doesn’t sound right when it comes out of your mouth, it’s not right. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right. You have to move; you have to do; you have to help others; you have to bring people together. I’m passionate about that. I voted for Trump.

Julie Fredrickson: I’m 33. I’m a small-business owner. I just got married three months ago. I grew up in Colorado. I consider myself to be a conservative. I’m not registered with any party, but if I were, it would be the Libertarians. I’m definitely a bit off the political charts. I voted for Hillary.

Sharon Beck: I’m 59. Remarried, very happily—six-year honeymoon so far. My daughter moved to Israel two years ago. My degree is in electrical engineering. It was a while ago, but I worked in the field. Now I’m involved in computer and Internet consulting, but I have been a political activist for about 20 years. I ran for state assembly in New Jersey. For the past year and a half, I worked for Trump as a volunteer; I started a group called Zionists4Trump because Israel is very important to me.

Patty Lammers: I’m 60 years old. I’m single, always have been. I’m on my second career. My first, I ran learning and development for a major financial services organization. Now I go in and fix people-related problems in companies. I’ve been doing that for about five years and love it. I voted for Donald Trump. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was the right one.

Oprah: There are more Trump supporters than Clinton supporters here. I’m curious as to why you all voted for him. What was the compelling reason, Patty?

Patty: For me, it was about the issues. I’ve been concerned about the economy, and I keep listening to the reports: “The economy is improving!” But I have a financial background, and I’m looking at the numbers thinking, Who’s smoking what? These numbers aren’t something I’d be proud of.

Oprah: When did you finally decide it was going to be Trump?

Patty: Maybe three weeks before the election. But I was always a “Never Hillary” person. I’d listen to her, and what I was hearing was 20th century. We are now in the 21st century, and we need new ideas. I wanted decisiveness.

Oprah: Sharon, how about you?

Sharon: I have a profound love of legal immigrants. The idea of people jumping the line—it’s not fair to the people who go through all the effort. Also, I feel that Trump understands who the enemy is, and Hillary didn’t.

Oprah: Who do you define as the enemy?

Sharon: Those who’d like to kill us.

Oprah: Okay. How about you, Sheila?

Sheila: Trump touched my heart by talking about things that affected my family. He talked about the things that good people—and we’re all good people here, every person at this table—are concerned about.

Star: I voted for Trump because he surprised me. I was never all in his camp—I liked Carly Fiorina. I would’ve loved to see a woman president. But when Trump called the terror attacks in France and California for what they were, I saw that he’s informed on so many levels.

Oprah: But what was it specifically that he said? An aha moment is something you are already feeling yourself—so what was the “Aha!” with Trump?

Star: For me, it was about the economy. I’d worked my whole life, and then I lost my job. I couldn’t find another one for several years—so when he went to Michigan, to Detroit, where many people are so poor, that meant something to me. You’d hear Obama tell us how good things were, and I’d look at my community and think, What is he talking about? I knew my experience. I had to take such a cut in salary to get a job again, and it cost too much to participate in their health insurance.

Julie: That’s how I came to vote for Hillary, ironically. I’m a small-business owner. I think a lot about the cost of insuring my employees, making sure they’re fairly compensated. As a Libertarian, voting for Hillary was not where I expected to land. But in assessing the two policy positions, I felt that Hillary had a stronger sense of what needed to happen. I never got a clear answer from Trump on what he wanted to do, other than “make things better.” I think we can all agree we want things to be better. With Hillary, I saw more plans. With Trump, I never got any answers.

Sarina: I don’t agree with that at all.

Oprah: Go ahead, let’s disagree!

Sarina: Trump was always telling people exactly what he was going to do. If you went on his website, he explained each position—paragraphs, whole pages on each. Hillary was out of touch with reality. Her foreign policy, along with Obama’s, destabilized the world.

Oprah: You believe Trump will make it safer?

Sarina: Yes.

Sheila: I feel that, too. I think he said what everybody has been thinking for a long time. He’s talking about creating jobs, keeping jobs here in the United States. We give everything away.

Dawn: I agree. National security is very important to me because of how I was brought up, being in and around the military, and understanding the importance and the sanctity of those who are privy to that information. The effect it has when it’s mishandled—that’s really scary to me.

Oprah: You’re talking about the emails?

Dawn: Without bringing up every little thing, yeah, I’m talking about the emails.

Oprah: The emails were pretty big. That issue bothered you.

Dawn: Sure did.

Oprah: Okay. Tell me the word or phrase you think best describes Trump.

Alicia: Before he ran, I did admire his leadership skills.

Dawn: Fearless.

Anum: Aggressive.

Julie: Demagogue.

Oprah: Allison, why were you “with her”?


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