This week, JSU hosted two former members of the United States Congress.
Representative Earl Hutto (D-FL) and Representative Sue Kelly (R-NY) spoke to various student groups for three consecutive days and were the focal point of the Constitution Day Celebration.
At some point on each of those days I met with and heard from both of them. Each and every time was more refreshing than the last.
It was almost amazing to hear each of them, from opposite sides of the aisle, agreeing on so many different issues.
Both expressed that hyper-partisanship is dividing our government and subsequently our nation. They cited monetary influence in campaigns as a large reason for the hyper partisanship and the general mistrust in government.
Rep. Kelly, a moderate Republican, cited that it is the moderates and centrists in government that get the real work done.
According to Kelly, the Party leaders can “toe the Party line” all that they want to, but no one is going to accomplish anything that matters without being open to compromise. Rep. Hutto, a centrist Democrat, agreed wholeheartedly.
This appreciation of compromise, coming from individuals who served in such high capacity, struck a nerve in me. It reminded me of what is good about government, and about the world.
Public servants like Hutto and Kelly remind me of great Americans in U.S. history such as Henry Clay “The Great Compromiser” and his colleagues. Not only do these types of leaders accept compromise, but they believe in it as an essential function of democracy.
Today, it seems that when you talk to anyone involved or interested in politics, the issues and potential solutions to them are cut-and-dry.
With no exceptions and no room for argument.
“You’re either for us or you’re against us!”
I say that’s wrong. I say that the democratic process is about being malleable to opposing ideals.
It’s about actively listening to what your peers have to offer to the discussion. And it’s about acting not on behalf of a political Party or a political institution, but on behalf of the men and women for whom your policy decisions will affect.
This isn’t to say that one shouldn’t have a foundation of beliefs that guide the moral compass. I believe that we must be able to, at some points, draw the proverbial line in the sand and stand up for what we believe is right.
However, we should understand that the world doesn’t always resemble the images that we see in our rose colored glasses.
Leaders in America today could learn from, and the citizens of America should stand behind men and women like Rep. Hutto and Rep. Kelly.
Congressman Hutto said it best when he said: “I campaigned and was elected as a Democrat. Sue campaigned and was elected as a Republican. But if her and I were to meet on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, we ought to meet there as Americans above all.”