Name: Perry Waag

Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Circle Start Date: June, 2018

Organization: Unite America


What do you do when you’re not running a Ben Franklin Circle?

I have been a stay at home dad since our daughter was born 10 years ago.  I do a lot of volunteering, primarily with the local school district, several pediatric cancer charities, and I am the NE Florida chapter leader for Unite America.  I wrote a book called The Centrist Path Ahead and published it on Amazon. I learned how to ride a motorcycle last summer and bought one. I read an article a while back about super-agers and what  their secret is, and the key seems to be constantly doing things to expand and test your mind, since as we get older our brains and thinking literally become more rigid, so at the ripe old age of 42 I am trying to make a concerted effort to get out of my comfort zone from now till I take my last breath…hopefully many decades from now!  My new motto is – if it scares you a little bit, you should definitely try it at least once. Keep challenging yourself to learn new skills. It will help mentally, emotionally, and physically.

What attracted you to the Circles?

I first heard of them from one of our UA chapter leaders, Marla Haas in Pennsylvania who started doing one last year.  I love that a BFC is all about practicing and promoting the lost art of civil conversation, considering and listening to diverse points of view, and in the process improve ourselves and the world around us.  As a stay at home dad, I’m all about trying to find opportunities for adult conversation and things to get me out of the house and out of my comfort zone.

Tell us a little about the composition of your group. How did you find members (or how did they find you)?

I know many others try in person recruitment, like door to door, but it’s ungodly hot in Florida during the summer. I’m a walking sweat gland and that did not appeal to me, a high functioning introvert and ex-New Yorker, so I took the electronic approach. I emailed my contacts and posted about it on Facebook, NextDoor, and Meetup.

A couple of the circle members are UA chapter members, but most of them found the circle through Meetup.  Our group has about 12 members. We range in age from early 30’s to 60’s and have 6 women and 6 men. I had hoped to create a group with a little more ethnic diversity.

How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?

I think it has helped me in multiple ways.  It has helped me to practice my interpersonal skills, my facilitator skills, and it has helped me be more mindful of my thoughts, actions, and words.  In short, I am definitely a better person than I was even 10 weeks ago when we started.

Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?

Hmmm, I would love to hold off on answering this until we’ve done them all, but I will say that I love that Temperance is the first virtue.  It really is true that all of the others kind of branch off from that one. Too much of any virtue can have a deleterious effect depending on the situation (in my humble opinion).

What is the last commitment you made to yourself? How’s it going?

The last virtue we covered was Order.  With each virtue, I try to be more mindful during the 30 days until the next virtue,  and I try to improve where I can. I can’t say I’ve gotten more orderly over the last two weeks but I have also not gotten more chaotic.  I’ve been temperate with my order!