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American Culture

October 9, 2019

Lessons from Georgetown: We can do better

There are moments when we need to step back, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that there is more at stake in this country than scoring political points. One such moment occurred this week.

By now, you’ve probably seen the video of liberal protestors harassing Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan who was slated to deliver the keynote address at an immigration conference at Georgetown University. The protests were so disruptive that McAleenan was unable to speak, even as conference organizers pleaded with the protestors to stop – to no avail. 

Some on the left will hail this disruption as an act of resistance. But let’s be honest: This kind of resistance doesn’t move the ball forward, doesn’t bring us closer to solutions, doesn’t save lives, and doesn’t change minds. In fact, these protests accomplish the opposite. They exacerbate division in this country, when we need to find ways to bridge the gap. They inflame extremists who are more interested in screaming than talking.

I hope the protesters who attended the Georgetown event will take a moment to reflect on their actions. Two days later, what have they accomplished? They certainly made news, and enjoyed their 15 minutes of notoriety, but at what cost? Not only did they deny Acting Secretary McAleenan the opportunity to express his views, they denied the audience the right to ask McAleenan tough questions and offer an alternative viewpoint.

This latest incident goes to the heart of how we engage with each other in civil society. It begs the crucial question: how will we fix our broken immigration system if we can’t have a civil debate about the issue?

Our immigration system certainly needs fixing. From an overwhelmed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to a porous border, we need action. But politicians in Washington have dropped the ball, and extremists have turned the issue into a political weapon. If we have any hope of fixing the border crisis it will be by talking to each other and finding common ground.

And how can college campuses foster big ideas to change the world if only one viewpoint can ever be heard? To make change in the world it takes more than an opinion and yelling. You have to have an open conversation and understand each side. Our future depends on America continuing to be the marketplace for ideas.