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Fred Barnes lecture leads week focused on seeking common ground in the public square

Fred BarnesThe national presidential campaign is in full swing, amid much debate, airing of closely-held ideals, and attempts to sway public opinion. Messiah College views this often polarized atmosphere as an opportunity to live out an important part of the College’s mission: “…to educate men and women toward maturity…in preparation for lives of…reconciliation in church and society.” During the College-sponsored Civil Dialogue Focus Week, Messiah’s Office of Student Affairs is encouraging students, faculty, and staff to seek common ground and engage in hospitable conversation on controversial topics.

Messiah College President Kim Phipps has emphasized that this effort is not primarily about sending a message of tolerance, “but about having conviction and demonstrating compassion.”

With the understanding that the dialoguing process may take many forms, Messiah is providing opportunities for the campus to teach, model, and practice civility in conversation through public forums, online media, discussions of faith, civic lectures, and theatre drama.

Fred Barnes with StudentsOn September 30, the Messiah College Honors Program sponsored a lecture on the presidential campaign presented by Fred Barnes, executive editor of “The Weekly Standard” and political commentator on Fox News Channel. Barnes is often seen on Fox News Channel: as co-host of the “Beltway Boys” and as a regular on Brit Hume’s “Special Report.” He has appeared on many other news shows, including “Nightline” and “Meet the Press.”

During the week-long event, students, faculty and staff can share what’s on their minds through “public square” postings and responses on “The Wall”, Messiah’s modern interpretation of the historicThe Wall Wittenburg Door. The Wall will host various media, including prose, poetry, art, photography, and other options. In the virtual realm, the campus is invited to submit YouTube-posted videos exploring the topic, “What does civil dialogue mean to you?” Judges will reveal their top selections, and President Phipps will host a talk-back session following the judging process.

can we talkPublic forum events are also planned, with the first focusing on practical steps in wrestling with the issue of “Theological Diversity: When Your Truth and My Truth Collide.” Messiah College student Republicans and Democrats will engage in a public debate—complete with post-debate analysis provided by faculty—while learning to model respect and civility in the public square.

Rounding out the week is an original theatre experience devised and written by the students of the Theatre and Social Change course. “This May Be the Ride of Your Life” was inspired by student observation and experience of fear on campus.

Kristin Hansen-Kieffer, vice provost and dean of students, commented on the desired outcomes from the week’s events: “It is my hope that during this week students see models of civil dialogue…that they learn through observation and experience what it means to really listen, to look for common ground, to speak with hospitality—while still holding true to core values.”

To Learn More:

Civil Dialogue Focus Week

Press Release
Fred Barnes
Messiah College Honors Program

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