In bipartisan efforts to engage students in political conversations, the chairs of Pennsylvania’s Democratic and Republican parties will appear April 9 for a student-organized forum on civil discourse at Franklin & Marshall College.
Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills and Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Val DiGiorgio will talk politics and take questions from moderator Terry Madonna, co-director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll and director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs. Questions from the audience will follow their discussion.
Stephen Medvic, the Honorable and Mrs. John C. Kunkel Professor of Government, will open the 75-minute forum with a brief background discussion of America’s political polarization.
Nathan Hughes, a senior government major, and Gianfranco Iaia, a junior public health major, organized the event out of concern for the polarization they said they have seen on campus.
“We’re going into the 2020 election cycle now, so this conversation is about how we fundamentally change our discourse with tangible examples,” said Hughes, a liberal Democrat.
Iaia, a conservative Republican, said, “I’ve seen this campus polarized, especially post-2016 election, so it’s very important to have these conversations.”
Their idea of the forum was born from their friendship. They share political ideas and issues constantly, but after a disagreeable period, they realized people should discuss their political differences with civility and without jeopardizing relationships.
“It was pretty obvious that we were clashing, but at the same time we weren’t. We were getting into the conversations,” Hughes said.
Iaia said, “It’s in our nature to always talk politics.”
The students reached out to the state’s two major political parties, presented the forum idea, and requested each party provide a speaker.
“The conversation is going to be about civic engagement,” Madonna said. “It’s a wonderful idea to get both sides talking to each other.”
The students want the forum to generate more interest in bipartisan conversations.
“We want to pursue events like this into the future,” Hughes said. “We hope this is the beginning of a conversation.”
The Civil Discourse Forum, scheduled for 4:45-6 p.m., April 9, in the Lisa Bonchek Adams Auditorium, is open to the public.