How an ‘Uncommon Table’ can help bring our divided nation together

Even those who have not been in politics for decades cannot avoid the political division, polarization, and culture wars that surround America today. This is not a new problem.

A lot has been written about this split over the last few years, and for good reason. One glance at Twitter, one cable network, one glance at the news and you can’t help but notice how cluttered and complicated democracy feels today. It makes you wonder just how strong America really is today and what you can do to bring us together so that we can remain safe and competitive on the world stage.

American University’s Sine Institute of Policy and Politics and the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Security in Politics (CSP) inspired the first “Uncommon Table” event at American University in late March. was this Washington DC

The Sine Institute and CSP share a common goal of bringing people together to discuss and work together to meet today’s challenges. In our Uncommon Table model, we envisioned a night where we could successfully answer important questions. Can American students from different walks of life and inevitably different life stories, perspectives and views find a common language and a way to listen and talk to each other?? , can we set aside our differences and find real common ground when it comes to dining?

What we found was a simple answer. Yes, I can. And they need to do more of it.

On a grand evening, the Sign Institute and CSP invited students from American University’s Northern Virginia Community College for a dinner and panel discussion. President Cornell Belcher.

A panel, including one of us, discussed national security, the future of democracy, and the importance of collaborative conversations, with two students from each school seated at a table alongside the discussion facilitator. They were encouraged to get to know each other and were given a variety of topics for discussion, including democracy, national security, polarization, Wall Street, Main Street, and the concept of patriotism. What does this mean to you?” and “Is it possible for two people who disagree vehemently on an issue to communicate amicably and coexist? In a common community?”

Dinner has started. The students put their phones in their pockets and did something amazing and unusual today. They shared a meal while learning about each other while debating answers. What do you think has most influenced your view of America and democracy? What experiences have made you who you are today? Did your parents have strong political views and influenced you? Which mentors, friends, teachers, coaches, elected officials inspire you and help you on your journey?

As we roamed from group to group and heard lively exchanges between students that reflected both agreement and respectful disagreement, a new sense of hope and faith in the power of open communication and connection I couldn’t help but feel. This positive feeling was even more evident when the students reported their table answers. Responses varied, with students at some tables reporting more discussion than others . Each presentation to the conference room by the selected table speakers was well thought out and clearly a collaboration of the different perspectives of the table members.

Yes, people can congregate. But only if they show grace to each other and allow open communication. Democracy has its flaws, but it can succeed through great compromises. It’s important to actually listen, not just listen to people. One student reported a table discussion on President Abraham Lincoln’s words, “A house divided by itself cannot stand.”

As the evening sun shines across the room, there is a spirit of optimism and hope that our country needs more and more than what we see and hear. Our democracy does its best to take the time to set aside obsessive partisanship and keep egos and insecurities out of the discussion. When more people break bread together and start conversations with an open mind and a commitment to learning about others, our nation will be stronger and our future stronger. looks bright.

The March event will be our first uncommon table, and it won’t be our last. I hope this concept evolves and manifests itself in many different forms. He believes his Uncommon Table event, the first, showed that the model can have a positive impact on the college setting. First of all, I hope that it will spread to higher education institutions nationwide. In the meantime, it is important for our safety and future that we try to find rare tables everywhere. . We find uncommon tables for ourselves, for each other, and for the future of democracy.

E pluribus unum. One of many.

Amy K. Dacy Former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Emily’s List at the Institute for Policy and Politics at American University. Janet Napolitano is a professor of public policy and the new director of the Center for Security in Politics. She is a former Secretary of Homeland Security and former Governor of Arizona.

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