On Tuesday, Nov. 2, students, alumni, and local community members gathered to hear Mark Gerzon speak on behalf of the University of Denver’s Conflict Resolution Institute. The speech, “How to Bridge the Partisan Divide No Matter Who Wins on Election Day,” focused on how our democracy is flawed in solving issues and what we can do to turn it around.
The room was overflowing with about 50 people eager to hear Mark speak on an election that has many American feeling confused and embarrassed.
Mark Gerzon grew up in Indiana as a conservative and mentioned how going to Harvard for college in the 1970’s shaped his eventual change in political beliefs.
Mark posed a question to the audience, “What does loving your country mean?”
Mark responded to his question by saying he used to think that, “Loving your country means arguing on behalf of what I believe in.”
After working for committees comprised of Democrats and Republicans, Mark soon realized that by arguing vehemently on what you believe in does not create conflit resolution. Namely because neither the very right conservatives nor the very left liberals would ever concede to the others demands.
He then changed his stance on what loving his country meant.
“It means becoming a mediator and conflict resolution person while not taking either side. It’s about the quality of engagements between competing mindsets that will determine whether or not we move forward as a Nation.”
Specifically, he highlighted the fact that we as citizens are forced to choose a “color”, either red or blue. The reality though is that we shouldn’t have too. In our country today, 26% of citizens identify as Republican, 29% of citizens identify as Democrats, and 42% of citizens are independent.
Mark touches on how such a divide has created a “war with words” in Washington and challenges officials to, “learn how to deal with fundamental differences and conflicting world views and work together to build a solution.”
Furthermore, Mark used an analogy to describe the state of our country saying that when a person is hurt they put off going to the doctor, but when a person is injured badly they rush to the doctor no question. America is injured badly and voters are using this election to send the message that we are ready to go to the doctor.
Can America send a message to our elected officials and challenge them to effectively work together instead of rival each other? Only time will tell.
The crowd was very engaged in the discussion as Mark encouraged questions and comments. The speech not only informed, but created a constructive dialogue that was beneficial both to Mark and the audience.
“We can’t see a debate that is worth our time in this country. What we’ve seen in this country is appalling. I’d rather have five millennials lead us into the future than a 69 and 70 year old person.” –Mark Gerzon
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