Civil Discourse Series

Productive Discourse in an Age of Division

At a time of deep polarization, the United States is entering another election cycle that seems likely to prove even more divisive than the last. Over the last several decades, conversations on political issues have become decidedly coarser and more personal. The proliferation of social media and other forms of digital communication make it easier to attack those with whom we disagree and lead not to the resolution of problems but divisions into camps.

Do I identify in my own mind the issues and problems now concerning the nation, and try to inform myself concerning them as far as may be possible, so as to form my own conclusions concerning them? Or would I, ignoring the need for personal searching and study, rather live in ignorance, and give my support according to my prejudices and my hope of some gain won at the expense of my fellows?” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gettysburg, Pa., June 30, 1963

This situation runs counter to the liberal arts ethos of seeking knowledge through critical thinking, reflection, and thoughtful deliberation; it is contrary to one of the central tenets of Gettysburg College's mission to value the “worth and dignity of all people;” and it threatens the underpinnings of American democracy. To move the conversation from “us versus them” to a more productive form of discourse, the Eisenhower Institute will hold a series of events to promote deeper, more reflective, and more respectful ways to deal with disagreement.

With dual locations in Gettysburg and Washington, D.C., the Eisenhower Institute is uniquely positioned to address the current political climate. In Gettysburg, our students live and learn adjacent to a great battlefield evocative of Lincoln's words that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." In Washington, our students prepare to take a leading role in addressing the long-term challenges facing the nation. While civil discourse is a theme that runs throughout the Eisenhower Institute's programming, this series speaks explicitly to the importance of promoting civil discourse and free speech while overcoming polarization and intolerance. 

Spring 2020 Events

Why Can’t We Have Both? Productive Discourse is a Skill Worth Mastering, not a Limitation on Freedom

January 29, 2020, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Mara Auditorium, Gettysburg College

Lara Schwartz serves as director of the Project on Civil Discourse at American University and specializes in civil discourse and campus speech, constitutional law, civil rights, politics, communications, and policy.

Read more about Lara Schwartz and RSVP to the event. 

Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity

February 13, 2020, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Mara Auditorium, Gettysburg College

Lilliana Mason is associate professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity (University of Chicago Press).

Read more about Lilliana Mason and RSVP to the event.

Domestic Terrorism: Extremist Subcultures in America

March 18, 2020, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
College Union Building 260, Gettysburg College *Please note change of venue*

Daryl Johnson is the author of Hate Land: A Long, Hard Look at America’s Extremist Heart and one of the foremost experts on domestic extremist groups in the United States.

Read more about Daryl Johnson and RSVP to the event.

Fall 2020 Events to be announced

Please visit our calendar for a complete list of Eisenhower Institute events.