Democracy on a Friday Night

“Loving Through Conflict — An open forum for a divided world” was held on March 3, 2017.

“The objective … would be to establish a safe, loving environment for staff, faculty and students to share ideas about how we can move forward with love and find common ground on issues that appear to be polarising and dividing the US and the world,” wrote hosts Mason Williams and Sky O’Brien.

To fulfill this objective, the two selected individuals who represented the diverse range of political opinions and backgrounds on Principia Campus. The three representatives from the U.S. were sophomores Garrett Barner and Leah Schaefer, and junior Amanda Loudon . The three representatives of the international community were junior Timon Keller (Germany), and seniors Jocelyne Jam (Cameroon) and Nohemy Johnson (Columbia).  

There was an emphases to practice civil discourse which meant effective and mindful communication, common ground in shared values, empathizing with others, and striving for unity at the start of the event. The audience and the panelists contributed additional values such as tolerance for the diversity of opinion, respect, and the ability to participate in the pluralism of ideas, and to understand their origin.

The discussion began peacefully with panelists establishing the state of the United States’ democracy. The consensus was that the foundation of the U.S. democracy was sure, but “Our three branches aren’t working as they should be” said Barner.

The next issue raised was whether or not division was healthy for a nation. Jam distinguished between differing opinions versus actual division. She said that the former was healthy, “But division is never good.”

“As people of integrity, we take responsibility of our actions.” 

A mini debate emerged on the cause of the division before the conversation moved to immigration. Shaefer took a stand on the issue, and the real test of civil discourse began. Issues ranged from the diction used to the actual issue. The gracious fact checkers junior Gwen Battram, and seniors Sydni Hammar and Anna-Zoe Herr came into god use to defuse the mounting tension within the room.

Barner acknowledged the shared concerns that the panel faced, and Keller offered logical and insightful ideas on the issue and several possible solutions.

“As people of integrity, we take responsibility of our actions” said Keller in reference to Germany’s history and the character-based education received at Principia College.

The panel continued onto race. No consensus was reached; however as Williams shares “We achieved [a civil discourse] from statistics, personal stories, morality and ethics.”

“We are practicing democracy on a Friday night” said Keller who thanked his panelists and the audience for their willingness to participate.

There was a strong desire for a second panel discussion.

 

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