In today’s public and private discourse listening to the opposition is considered taboo, much less yielding to their position. The possibility that we could be wrong, that we lack the necessary knowledge or experience, or that we have our own set of biases is never considered. Admitting that even a parcel of the opposition’s position is truthful is portrayed as a sign of weakness. Civilly dialoguing with the opposition is treated as betrayal. It is little wonder then that there is so much polarization in our society. Yet, history and experience shows that listening to the opposition can change people and circumstances for the better.
A True Story
Recently my wife and I watched the movie “Dream Horse,” the inspiring true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely racehorse bred by small-town Welsh bartender, Jan Vokes. With little money and no experience, Jan convinces her neighbors to chip in their meager earnings to purchase an equal share and breed a mare and raise her foal to compete against the racing elites. The group’s investment pays off as the foal, Dream Alliance, becomes a beacon of hope in their struggling community as he rises through the ranks.
The simple message of this film is about the value in fighting to keep one’s dreams alive. Yet, there are two scenes within the movie that illustrate another value, the importance of listening to the opposition, and being willing to adopt their position when it proves to be a better and wiser course of action.
After placing in several big races Dream Alliance tears a tendon in a preparatory race for the 2008 Grand National at the Aintree Festival. All 22 members of the alliance of owners, except Jan and her husband, are in favor of euthanizing Dream Alliance. In a passionate plea Jan reflects on what the horse has given and meant to them and their small town and argues to save Dream Alliance from being euthanized. With veterinarians waiting on the track for a decision the consortium of owners agrees to go along with Jan and try and save the horse.
The horse undergoes a new stem cell treatment, which ultimately allows the tendon to heal. Dream Alliance successfully resumes training in July 2009 and soon the consortium faces a decision whether or not to enter him in the Welsh National. This time everyone in the consortium is in favor of entering except Jan, who fears for the horse’s safety. Jan’s husband and the members of the consortium argue that to not let Dream Alliance race is to go against what she was born to do and why they agreed to try and save her. Jan initially resists but the compassionate and compelling words of her fellow owners and her husband moves her to agree. Dream Alliance goes on to win the 2009 Welsh National by three-quarters of a length. His victory earns the group of 22 people, who were paying £10 a week for his training, a prize of £57,000.
Though the overall theme of the movie is the importance of not giving up on aspirations, a maybe more important message in today’s world is the value of listening and then heeding the advice of the opposing view. In the first instance the alliance members listened and yielded to Jan’s position and in the second instance Jan listened to and heeded the advice of the alliance. In both instances, their willingness to listen to the opposing view and ultimately to adopt that view, allowed for unprecedented and even miraculous results.
Posted on December 14, 2021