It’s time to seek common ground rather than differences in politics

Recently, 60 individuals — as diverse as could have been selected — joined together as the 2017 Class of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the class’s first module in Washington, D.C.

We will participate in a six-month program to learn about the decision-making processes that were undertaken by the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

As with any leadership program, there were plenty of quotes that were tweetable and should be at the forefront of our lives. For example: “The six most important words of a leader are: I am sorry for my mistake,” or “Authentic leaders inspire others to willingly take action to create change.” But this program is more than that. There is no tweet that can encompass what we experienced.

As someone interested in history, I was fascinated by our visit to Mount Vernon to learn about the founding of our nation and the key role that President George Washington’s leadership and character had in keeping the new nation together.

We heard from former Cabinet Secretaries on the roles that they played and the importance of creating strong teams. Hours were spent in group discussions trying to identify how we can improve our own communities.

During our time together, the chords that struck the hardest were ones that no one individual could have taught — the ones I learned from my classmates.

We were challenged to disagree with each other. To rank our values. We were asked to defend our positions. We discussed criminal justice reform and mass incarceration, welfare reform and economic policy, abortion and human rights. Issues that divide our country. Throughout the week, we held conversations that we otherwise try to avoid. We were warned not to waste our time, but to act as if we had known each other for 10 years. And ultimately it was our differences that joined us and attracted us to each other while building a stronger bond as each day passed. As one of our speakers said, “Rather than always reaching consensus, we need to learn to disagree in a clean and respectful way.”

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Chris Alexakisgovernment