Inaugural American Conversation Series bridges divide between political left and right
SHEPHERDSTOWN — The inaugural event of the American Conversation Series featured a conversation between Donna Brazile, former Democratic Party National Chairwoman, and Mercedes Schlapp, former White House Director of Strategic Communications under President Trump, moderated by Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix in the Frank Arts Center Theater on Nov. 4.
Hosted by the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications at Shepherd University, the American Conversation Series is a public forum that will bring together high-profile speakers from all sides of the partisan and ideological aisle.
“Welcome to our first installment of the American Conversation Series,” said BBSICPC Director David Welch, as he opened the event. “The mission of the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications, is to study and promote how civil political discourse can offer a platform for reason and respect.”
At the beginning of the conversation, Hendrix asked the audience to act with respect towards Brazile and Schlapp, to ensure a positive result from the evening’s discussion.
“I would like to add a very warm welcome to our speakers and all those who are committed to civil discourse,” Hendrix said. “[Shepherd University has] emerged as an academic center of excellence, cultural head and also center for civil political discussion. I told our speakers before we began today, what a great audience you are, and how civil you are.”
Despite Hendrix’s good faith in the audience, the sound of boos and cheers drowned out both speakers throughout the course of the evening. Thankfully, the speakers kept their focus on their conversation, trying to find an area of common ground. That common ground proved to be something outside of the political arena–their shared Christian faith.
“I love you, you’re not going to do anything or say anything that will make me hate you,” Brazile said to Schlapp. “I call you ‘sis,’ because you’re my sister in Christ.”
Schlapp reciprocated the sentiment, before bringing up their shared goal in coming to speak at the event.
“It feels nowadays that the Democrats and Republicans are in two separate corners. I think that in these times, we need to continue these kinds of debates,” Schlapp said. “We need to find this common ground to advance the country and unite the country the best way we can.”
Brazile agreed, saying that promoting civil discourse is a necessary step towards a unified America.
“We need to be on one team after election day,” Brazile said, mentioning that her love for discourse is what led her on her illustrious career path. “I came to Washington, D.C., because I believe the Legislative branch is the place for debate.”
Following the discussion, Brazile held a signing of her most recent book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” The book is currently available at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown.
To learn more about the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications, visit stubblefieldinstitute.org.
C-SPAN recorded the event.