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Community Leader Tip #1: Learn How to Understand and Make Arguments


Hi. I'm Alison Cebulla and many of you may know me as a Community Facilitator at PACEs Connection of the Northeast, Midatlantic, Southwest, and International Communities. I also produce our A Better Normal series and other live Zoom events.

Many burgeoning community leaders ask me, "what can I do to make a bigger difference?" This is a big question with no one right answer. So I'm going to start writing small pieces with little tips that can help.

Community Leader Tip #1

My life changed forever when in 2015, I took a free online course through the Coursera platform called Think Again I: How to Understand Arguments, taught by Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong of Duke University.

Click here to sign up for the course. We are not affiliated with this course in any way.

I loved in this course how the professor taught, "saying it louder isn't an argument" and "saying it again isn't an argument." Ha! These rules seem intuitive but at the time, a lightbulb when off in my head. I could be more powerful by being more eloquent and less of a bully. It wasn't that my intention was to bully people, it's just that I lacked this essential skill. I didn't understand the basic architecture of arguments. My speaking and writing were ineffective as a result.

This course taught me:

  1. How to spot logical fallacies in others' arguments
  2. How to craft strong arguments that follow a logical sequence
  3. What an argument is and isn't
  4. How to be a more compelling writer and speaker
  5. How to engage in better conversations
  6. How to mobilize people into action through compelling writing and speaking

I see many of our PACEs Science champions doing inspiring work: writing social media posts, blogging, and speaking about this passion. One thing that could take a lot of us to the next level is making sure that when we make a post, we're making a clear argument with valid points that lead back to concrete facts. Many of us could be even more powerful than we already are in changing the world if we could express our ideas in a more compelling way that helps our audiences link our ideas to facts.

For example, we may be really excited to let people know that a high ACEs score is not just due to neglectful parents, but rather societal factors that influence poverty and wealth that increase or decrease levels of stress in the home.

I could:

  1. Post a link to a study
  2. Let people know how angry I am
  3. Make a compelling argument linked to a simple, actionable item

Which one of these is going to best build the community you want to live in? Probably #3 although I am guilty of doing #1 and #2 pretty often, so I'm not shaming anyone.

Here's an example:

A new study has just shown that poverty is linked to a high ACEs score and that historical racism in the United States is linked to high poverty rates, especially for Black African American and Latinx populations.

**Here's where you might want to make an argument**

Due to the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), in which it was decided that the Federal Government could not restrict campaign donations from corporations, wealthy citizens, and fundraising committees, we are increasingly being controlled by the wealthy elite through political campaign financing in which wealthy donors sway policy decisions due to politician's fear of losing their campaign contributions and their need to fund their future elections. We are not going to see the wealth disparity gap close until this issue is addressed.

**Now a call to action**

Due to our commitment to reduce ACEs in our community, including decreasing poverty and income inequality, we are seeking to increase knowledge in our community about the links between policy, poverty, and ACEs. We are hosting a panel on June ___, 2021 featuring experts ____, _____, and local state representative ____. Click here to join this free event. Change starts when our knowledge increases and when we have a plan of action.

A more simple example:

I have just read a new study has just shown that poverty is linked to a high ACEs score and that historical racism in the United States is linked to high poverty rates, especially for Black African American and Latinx populations.


Take a moment to read this study. I know that each of us wants to lead a long, healthy life, and that we want the same for our family and community members. A high ACEs score predicts nearly every negative health outcome you can name, from heart disease to Substance Use Disorders. When we increase our knowledge about health risks, we can make better-informed decisions for ourselves and loved ones.

**Call to action**

Please leave a comment with 1 thing that surprised you from this article. I'd love to have a discussion with you on this topic.

Thanks for reading my Community Leader Tip #1! Please comment with anything I've missed. Additionally, if you know of other free resources to learn how to make compelling arguments, please share those.

Do you have an example of using this tip successfully? Please share in the comments!

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