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“Partnering” by Jean Oelwang

Tangible lessons from 65+ of the world's most remarkable partnerships.


Friends, social justice activist and president and CEO of The Family Leader

Donna Red Wing and Bob Vander Plaats


As the leader of a Conservative Christian organization in Iowa, the last thing Bob Vander Plaats expected was to forge a friendship with renowned lesbian activist Donna Red Wing. For the next four years, until Donna died from cancer in 2018, the two nurtured a Deep Connection that became a model of compassion and acceptance.

“We got to know each other as people before we started talking about issues or agenda or things that constantly divide. … I guess it’s from a person-to-person level, a human-to-human level, not a, ‘what defines you and what defines me, and those are different, so we should fight.’”

Bob Vander Plaats

“I think, for both Donna and I, there’s some similar things, is that love for one another is much greater than hate for one another. And you can disagree with the issue, whatever the issue is at stake, but you don’t have to hate the person because of their belief in that particular issue or stance or whatever it might be.”

Bob Vander Plaats

“I would say first of all, check your heart. Why are you doing it? Are you doing it to win an argument or are you doing it because you really have love for your neighbor? Do you have love for your society, for your culture? And so, I think constantly is check your heart, and then be the person that is genuine about coming up with solutions versus just rhetoric. It’s easy to come up with rhetoric. It’s easy to slander people. It’s easy to slam somebody in a tweet today.”

Bob Vander Plaats

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