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2020 Humanities Symposium to highlight the value of political discourse

The 2020 Humanities Symposium hosted by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences centered their weeklong event series around ways to create open conversation about politics.

The 13-event series, “A More Perfect Union: Dialogue and Democracy, encouraged students not only to talk with others about political topics but to listen as well.

“We particularly wanted to emphasize the idea of dialogue because it feels so much right now like everybody is yelling into the wind and nobody’s listening,” said Margaret Monteverde, co-chair of the symposium.

Dialogue is fundamentally important to our democracy. We can’t become a more perfect union, we can’t improve if we aren’t listening to each other.”

As Belmont prepares to host the final presidential debate on Oct. 22 and students get ready to cast their ballots in November, Monteverde wants students to feel more encouraged and comfortable to engage in political conversations.

For Monteverde, getting students to feel engaged with politics and to recognize they have a role to play in our political system is an important first step towards change.

“A lot of change that has happened was instigated by people who weren’t that much older than they are right now,” said Monteverde.

The symposium events ranged from roundtable discussions featuring Belmont professors to a number of guest speakers, all of whom stressed the importance of creating a beneficial dialogue.

“I think what’s more important is that we’re trying to instill or at least support a culture of debate on campus and dialogue on campus that’s genuine, rather than forced,” said Peter Kuryla, a history professor and roundtable member at one of the events.

“It’s more about instilling a certain kind of campus culture of rigorous debate and attention to ideas that’s actually serious.”

Similarly, Nathan Griffith, a political science professor, wants to encourage students to create conversations with people with whom they may disagree. Griffith advises to have the conversation with them anyway and look to learn a new set of viewpoints.

“Talk to somebody who you don’t agree with and love them anyway,” said Griffith. “I’ll go ‘High School Musical,’ that we’re all in this together.”

The last day of virtual events will kick off at 11 a.m. on Friday with a viewing of the documentary “One Vote” followed by a discussion with Mike Pinter and Christine Doeg from the math and teaching centers.

The final event, “Speaking of Voting” with Mike Pinter, is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday and will open a conversation for students to discuss why they think voting is important, share their own voting experience stories and ask any questions they may have about voting.

Both events will be held via Zoom.

This article written by Madison Bowen.

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