Strengthening Democracy: Juan Carlos Huertas

Our 2024 Civic Catalyst is recognized for bringing people together to have difficult conversations and build connection and understanding during polarized times.

Civic Nebraska’s annual Strengthening Democracy Awards recognize Nebraskans who embody the spirit of a more modern and robust democracy. Our 2024 honorees include educators, administrators, students, and everyday Nebraskans. We’ll officially honor the winners on June 27, but before then, here’s a chance to learn more about what makes them special. 

Civic Nebraska honors Juan Carlos Huertas of Lincoln with the 2024 Civic Catalyst Award for connecting the faith community to civic life through innovative partnerships.
The Civic Catalyst Award celebrates a Nebraskan who embraces transformative ideas and puts them into action on behalf of democracy. Juan Carlos, who is the minister of proclamation and practice of justice at First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, is known for not shying away from difficult conversations in service of mutual understanding and a more peaceful community – not a small task in an era of unrest, isolation, and hyper-polarization.
“Juan Carlos actively pursues new avenues to connect the faith community to civic life, while also recognizing the barriers that this may pose for some individuals,” said Nancy Petitto, Civic Nebraska’s senior director of programs. “His approach to this work is unique and involves so many aspects to bring as many people to the table as possible.”
Juan Carlos often speaks publicly about how recognizing humanity and dignity in one another can drive civil discourse, bridging any number of cultural, social, and political divides. He has described his work as “to work as Jesus would have us work to make a difference in our community – to work together for peace and justice.”
Civic Nebraska witnessed the effects of Juan Carlos’ work earlier this year when he convened several community partners to conceive and create a community discussion around understanding and employing dignity as a force for change. Anchoring the initiative was a free, public lecture from author Donna Hicks of Harvard University, in which Hicks highlighted how recognizing others’ dignity builds mutual understanding. Hundreds of Lincolnites attended the May 2 lecture.
Then, to reinforce that message, Juan Carlos and partners hosted a pair of community listening sessions to delve more deeply into how valuing and respecting others for their own sake translates into practical action that can meaningfully improve our shared civic lives.
“Juan Carlos helps us all understand the nuance that accompanies sometimes-nebulous concepts to create a meaningful, practical approach that invites and encourages public participation,” Petitto said. “He recognizes the need to bring the community together to have difficult conversations that will get us back to a place of connection and understanding.”
Meet Juan Carlos and his fellow Strengthening Democracy honorees on June 27 at the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.

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