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A researcher explores ways Kansas Citians can protect democracy in America

 A woman gestures with her right hand while talking at a microphone inside a radio studio.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Valerie Lemmie, the director of exploratory research for the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, talks on KCUR's Up To Date on June 8, 2023.

Valerie Lemmie discusses how people can build trust in their communities and continue the battle of keeping democracy alive.

With more Americans feeling as if democracy is under threat, people are wondering what they can do about it.

Valerie Lemmie has spent the past 35 years asking and answering such questions. As director of exploratory research for the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, her job is "to solve public problems and controversial issues in government organizations and local communities." She says every able-bodied person needs to be engaged and a part of the country's governance process to ensure a better life for everyone.

She points to efforts by Republican leaders in Missouri and Kansas to make it harder to vote due to concern about voter fraud. Even though evidence of fraud doesn't exist, Lemmie says, her research shows sometimes facts don't matter.

"If I am so determined that x is true, you can talk until you're blue in the face and I'm not going to change my mind," Lemmie says. "So let's move the narrative and not worry about it being a conversation only about fraud, but how do we make it convenient for people who want to vote? People who don't want to cheat? How do we make it convenient for them?"

Lemmie also encourages people who think they don't have time to engage with their communities or help build democracy to understand we all have time for things that are important to us, and we have to make democracy one of those things.

  • Valerie Lemmie, director of exploratory research for the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio

Valerie Lemmie, 6 p.m. Thursday, June 8 at the Kansas City Public Library's Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St, Kansas City, Missouri 64112.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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