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When was the last time you changed your views on a political or ideological issue?

On March 27, 2018, DukeEngage hosted “Conversation, Conflict & the Art of Respectful Disagreement: A Candid Discussion about Civil Discourse” in the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Invited guests, students and program alumni gathered to discuss the difficulty and potential of dialogue across differences. Invited participants included:

  • Eric Mlyn, Assistant Vice Provost for Civic Engagement and DukeEngage Peter Lange Executive Director
  • Ada Gregory, Associate Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Program Director, DukeEngage-New York
  • Thomas Williams, Postdoctoral Fellow, Science & Society and Program Director, DukeEngage-DC
  • Carina Arellano ’17, Admissions Officer and alumna, DukeEngage-New York
  • BJ James ’19, Political Science major and alumnus, DukeEngage-DC

Participants relayed stories of engagement across ideological lines and reflected on why there is so much interest in this topic right now. The group noted the importance of deep listening — of setting aside the desire to persuade in order to understand — and talked about what questions foster this kind of conversation.

The panel acknowledged that conflict is difficult and must be skillfully navigated to find a way forward. The group also acknowledged that there are times when we may not have the energy, or it may not be safe, to engage in this kind of dialogue. Attendees left inspired to assume good intentions, to listen for understanding, to aim for empathy, and to practice these conversation on campus, to prepare us for the big issues that await us in the world at large.