And speaking of the 2016 presidential primary, the campaign Monday saw a very welcome development that we hope will become a trend — in presidential politics in particular and in the civic debate in general.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who freely labels himself a socialist, spoke at a college campus earlier this week, not in itself noteworthy. Sanders in recent months has been drawing huge crowds of college students in liberal enclaves like Seattle, Portland and the college town of Madison, Wis., but this one was different. He spoke in Lynchburg, Va., at conservative Liberty University, which was founded by the late Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell.
The 12,000 or so students attending were not necessarily supportive, which Sanders readily recognized, but they were polite and heard him out. Notably, they eschewed that sort of disruption that frequently accompanies controversial speakers on college campuses, especially when conservatives visit schools with left-thinking students and faculties.
In an uncanny coincidence of timing, President Barack Obama on Monday spoke on the need for students — especially those inclined to support him — to hear a variety of viewpoints. At a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, Obama prefaced his remark by noting some conservatives have problems with liberal speakers on college campuses.
But Obama went on to say,“I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.”
Obama continued, “I’ve got to tell you. I don’t agree with that, either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.” It’s useful to note here that Liberty University extended the invitation to all presidential candidates, regardless of party or philosophy; Sanders is the only Democrat thus far to accept.
Much has been written about the decline of civility in American discourse; one cause is that too many people of similar mindset retreat to their philosophical echo chambers that reinforce their own thinking. The developments noted above serve as examples of people and institutions stepping out of their silos and broadening their exposure to different philosophical views. We hope other political candidates — and educational institutions — get the idea.
* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.