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OPINION: 90 Minutes Series event changed my perspective on the political divide

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The spring 2018 lineup of the Ohio University 90 Minutes Series.

Although opinion writer Sam Smith went to Kevin Kellems 90 Minute Series event expecting to be “rattled,” he says the event gave him a new outlook.

As a staunch liberal attending a 90-Minute Series featuring a hardcore conservative, I approached the Ohio University sponsored discussion expecting to be a bit rattled.

Over a period of close to six years, Kevin Kellems worked in the Pentagon, as Vice President Dick Cheney’s press secretary, and for the World Bank. He is now president of the Strategy Center, a communications strategy organization.

My original objective in attending the symposium was to analyze Kellems’ words and write a response from a liberal perspective. I had also heard that Kellems had dealings with the Trump campaign. So, as you can imagine, I arrived with an aggressive attitude.

Upon hearing that Political Director Grant Gravagna of the Ohio U College democrats would be the interviewer, I was sure that a debate was to follow.

However, that is not what I found.

Kellems was cognizant of his audience. He was careful to project his experiences without asserting his views in front of what was certainly a liberal audience.

He was also brief in answering political questions, specifically those regarding the current president and his involvement with him. When asked about his Trump dealings, he was vague and mentioned a non-disclosure form.

His experiences in the government were candid and intriguing. Kellems’ accounts ranged from being in the Pentagon on 9/11 to being in a hotel struck by enemy rockets to working with citizens of developing nations toward improvement.

While I did not agree with some things he said, such as his support of the Iraq War, the anecdotes and perspectives of governmental work he gave were not all biased or politically charged. I learned quickly that the problem was my own attitude.

My approach was not pragmatic. Because of Kellems’ political alignment, I had strong preconceived notions of what he would say and how his supposed ideas would make me feel. I see similar sentiments frequently among fellow liberals.

Liberal minds everywhere ceaselessly champion the quality of being “open-minded,” yet, unfortunately, we are often not open-minded toward beliefs that differ from our own. I am certainly guilty of this trap. We have a tendency to be open-minded to different cultures, races and ideologies — unless they are conservative.

Being open-minded to conservative ideas does not mean accepting them, but it does mean accepting those who have them and recognizing that those ideas are still valid. I was nearly ready to discount everything Kellems said simply because of political issues, yet his insight was valuable to all perspectives.

It can certainly be a challenge to accept people who have ideas that conflict directly with our own. If we do not, we are missing out. People of all ideologies can have valuable wisdom. It is time to get over ourselves and our biases so that we can learn from different ideas.

In the political field, many Americans on both sides of the aisle quickly label disagreement as bad. In truth, disagreement is fundamental to the progress of our nation. Relying on one ideology will only subject us to a one-party system that we have tried so hard to avoid. To maintain this two-party balance, we should not lose sight of our own opinions and remain open to ideas that may conflict with our own.

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