A Bipartisan Idea

President Barack Obama at Howard University
President Obama addresses the 2016 graduating class of Howard University in Washington, D.C., on Saturday

The overwhelming consensus among members of the GOP is that President Obama has done no good in office. This idea is omnipresent in the way we discuss and evaluate him. I would like to call attention to a question the President has addressed that continues to be very relevant to students at Georgetown and to those on college campuses across the country—to what degree should we be protected from harmful or dissenting ideas?

In September 2015, President Obama offered his take on students’ oversensitivity. He argued against suppressing the voices and ideas of people we disagree with politically or morally. The president urged students to argue with different points of view rather than ignore them, even if they were offensive.

College is not meant to be more than a training facility for job skills. Rather, it is a forum for diverse ideas and discussions that are unfeasible in any other environment. How can we challenge and change ideas we don’t like if we are never exposed to them? This unwillingness to face opposing viewpoints crops up in class readings and discussions, as well as on-campus speakers who are deemed too politically polarizing.

As a student of history, I have determined that we cannot truly learn from the past, if we cannot hear all the sides. To understand the lead-up to the Civil War, we have to study both slave narratives and pro-slavery plantation owners, even though it is safe to assume not many people still agree with Calhoun’s stance on slavery (he really wanted to keep it).

Similarly, we cannot understand the current political climate if we do not acknowledge and hear first hand of current injustices in the world. People still think and talk about various races as inferior and women as objects. Coming to terms with our generation’s place in this discussion is not meant to be comfortable. It’s one thing to complain about these problems, but it is much harder to hear them firsthand. Yes, it’s harder, but it’s much more valuable in growing up and away from the ideas many of us want to leave in the past.

For the most part, Georgetown is good at giving representation to different points of view. We are students at a historically Jesuit university that celebrates that heritage while not forcing anyone to believe one way or another. We had Cecile Richards come speak, and then we had a Right to Life week. However, we also overhear discussions of banning Donald Trump from speaking on campus—even if he were to become President—because of his copious insensitive comments. Not only would that disrespect the legitimate holder of the highest office in the land, it would also silence any discussion before it could begin. To all my liberal friends, I promise there is such a thing as a smart Trump supporter, and there is no reason their voices should be ignored just because of who they support, especially when Georgetown has already hosted democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders.

I do not advocate silencing either sides of the aisle. We can never develop a system of beliefs that is uniquely ours if we do not hear all possible viewpoints. We cannot grow without getting hurt and challenging ideas, and we cannot be exposed to the real world without getting offended. How can we learn from the past if we are not allowed to talk about it and if we are prohibited from reading firsthand how our forefathers thought?

President Obama argues for a well-rounded education, in subject matter and points of view. The best way to learn is to start a discussion, not silence one. We should hear the voices of those both celebrated and mocked, because like them or not, they got there for a reason. We must carry the gold out of Egypt, for there is an opportunity to learn from every experience.

It is rare for Obama to receive wholehearted support from anyone with conservative ideas, but I must applaud him here.

Well said, Mr. President.

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Emily was born and raised in Arizona and is majoring in History and Psychology with a minor in Classical Studies. She has interned on Capitol Hill in both the House and Senate, where she has heard firsthand what matters to many conservative voters. Emily is particularly interested in fiscal policy and job creation. When not working on the Hill, she is running along the National Mall and training for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon.