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In 1995, Los Angeles' deeply divided reaction to the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial underscored how far apart the diverse communities of Los Angeles and the nation stand on some basic issues. As a result, then-Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas called a meeting with 20 civic leaders and community activists to defuse escalating tensions. Out of this was born an innovative nonpartisan initiative, Los Angeles' first citywide discussion—A Day of Dialogue.

Since then, thousands of people, both locally and nationally, have participated in Days of Dialogue programs; from political Town Hall forums in large civic auditoriums, to small group meetings in neighborhood libraries, churches, and fire stations.