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We want to disabuse our colleagues in the political world of the idea that compromise is betrayal and intransigence is a virtue. Working together, we helped organize a series of lunchtime dialogues to consider how we could find avenues to break down the walls that keep Americans of divergent views from listening to each other.
When the Founders shaped the system of government we are so familiar with, they created not merely a new structure but, politically, a new world.
For centuries, people had been “subjects” of government; here, they were to be not subjects but citizens, and that put the burden of governing the nation squarely on the shoulders of the people themselves.
We are divided on many issues, but we are one people, one nation, and we will not — we cannot — meet the burden of our citizenship unless we are willing to do it together, as neighbors, able to debate our varying viewpoints with mutual regard.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence, themselves representing different regions and different interests, pledged to each other their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. While they did not always agree when it came to creating this new world of theirs, they stood together. We should do no less.
The stakes are high for us, as they were for the Founders: America’s role as an economic, political and moral leader is dependent on our working together to meet our constitutional responsibilities.
Former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.) serves as executive director of the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership. Former Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) was secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton administration and now is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and executive director of the Congressional Program at the Aspen Institute.