Eisenhower Institute Presents American Polarization Panel

By Alicia Method, Staff Writer

On Saturday, the Eisenhower Institute, paired with Learning Life, hosted a dialogue in Washington D.C. geared toward helping students to understand division in American culture, as part of their Democracy Week.

Titled “American Polarization: A Conversation,” the event hosted three speakers: Nealin Parker, Seth David Radwell, and Bill Schneider. The lecture portion of the event was available online for Gettysburg students to watch through a live Youtube link.

After a reception in D.C. from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., the speakers began sharing thoughts and presentations on American polarization. 

The first speaker, Seth Radwell, covered information reaching back to the Enlightenment and birth of America to give a context for divisions found in the United States’ society today. 

Radwell, who was previously the CEO of The Proactiv Company, presented information from his new book, “American Schism: How the Two Enlightenments Hold the Secret to Healing Our Nation.” Using concepts from his work, Radwell described what he called two enlightenments, and traced the American political divide back to two radically different understandings of the social contract. 

Bill Schneider, the second speaker, is an extremely well-known professor and journalist who has covered every U.S. presidential and midterm election since 1964. He has written for both CNN and The Los Angeles Times and was a Visiting Professor of Public Affairs at UCLA and Boston College. 

Schneider described perspectives from a more modern period, discussing how Americans’ political views used to align with either business or labor. Today, he said, conflicts arise primarily over religion, race and education. According to Schneider, these things represent our values and identity, leading to the core of polarization: Americans cannot compromise their identity. 

The final speaker, Nealin Parker, drew from her experience as Executive Director of Common Ground USA and as founder and Director of the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University to explain what exactly can be done to address the extreme polarization in America. 

First, Parker put the United States in a global context, discussing worldwide trends and societal vital signs such as physical violence, agency, and polarization. To combat the large increase in hate crimes and low trust in government and elections, Parker suggested large-scale changes to how Americans interact. Some of these included interrupting violence, re-establishing trust in institutions, and building up the private sector. 

A discussion following the lectures allowed the participants and hosts to dive more deeply into the issues they considered.

Print Friendly

Author: Gettysburgian Staff

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *