Five simple lessons in practical peacemaking from Shane L. Windmeyer, executive director of the LGBT group Campus Pride, growing out of his unexpected friendship with Chick-Fil-A founder Dan Cathy.
1. Let’s talk to each other.
2. Let’s see each other as humans worthy of full dignity.
3. Let’s understand what our differences really are and let’s seek to find common ground.
4. Let’s not be so serious all the time.
5. Let’s all be willing to give a little.
Windmeyer is interviewed by Elizabeth Tenety at the Washington Post’s On Faith blog:
“I assumed that if I mentioned my husband [to Dan] that he would run away or run from the room screaming, right? Or throw water on me, I’m not sure quite what I expected. But in every instance that Dan had to react negatively based on his beliefs, instead he extended a hand, a hug, a warm welcome. He role-modeled what his company has said they are, which is to treat people with dignity, honor and respect. And I challenged him: Well, if that’s true, then why are you funding groups that are actively politically engaged to hurt my family? I think he heard that. Through that difference and dialogue, we were able to say: Okay, what are some of our common ground issues?
“One of them was that we don’t want to hurt anyone. We don’t want to be used by politicians. We both care about young people and making sure that they have a safe learning environment. On college campuses, that was being impacted — it still is being impacted and Dan’s well aware of that.
“I think that the Huffington Post piece wasn’t to say we’ve achieved what we want from the standpoint of a safe learning environment on college campuses, but Dan and I, through our friendship, we’ve been able to say that’s a common ground issue: We don’t want anybody to be bullied. We don’t want there to be homeless youth, and we want there to be strong families. Now, what those families look like we may disagree on. But at the same time, I believe by simply being who I am, I’m showing Dan what he would call a ‘blessing of growth,’ that Shane and his husband, Tommy, have been together 18 years. That’s maybe a different family, but it shows commitment and it shows love.
“I don’t plan on changing Dan’s belief system or his views on marriage equality. But I do plan to use our friendship as an opportunity to talk about our common ground. It has been a journey that I didn’t think I would be on, frankly, and I’m embracing it because I am also learning from this experience.”
In the Huffington Post column, Windmeyer describes how he came to be in contact with Cathy:
Like most LGBT people, I was provoked by Dan’s public opposition to marriage equality and his company’s problematic giving history. I had the background and history on him, so I thought, and had my own preconceived notions about who he was. I knew this character. No way did he know me. That was my view. But it was flawed.
For nearly a decade now, my organization, Campus Pride, has been on the ground with student leaders protesting Chick-fil-A at campuses across the country. I had researched Chick-fil-A’s nearly $5 million in funding, given since 2003, to anti-LGBT groups. And the whole nation was aware that Dan was “guilty as charged” in his support of a “biblical definition” of marriage. What more was there to know?
On Aug. 10, 2012, in the heat of the controversy, I got a surprise call from Dan Cathy. He had gotten my cell phone number from a mutual business contact serving campus groups. I took the call with great caution. He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?
The first call lasted over an hour, and the private conversation led to more calls the next week and the week after. Dan Cathy knew how to text, and he would reach out to me as new questions came to his mind. This was not going to be a typical turn of events….
…This past week Chick-fil-A shared with me the 2011 IRS Form 990, filed in November for the WinShape Foundation, along with 2012 financials. The IRS has not released the 990 to the public yet, but the financials affirm Chick-fil-A’s values a year prior to the controversy this past July. The nearly $6 million in outside grant funding focuses on youth, education, marriage enrichment and local communities. The funding reflects Chick-fil-A’s promised commitment not to engage in “political or social debates,” and the most divisive anti-LGBT groups are no longer listed.