By: Charlie Finnerty
This article is an editorial.
To say the country is divided in 2017 would be an understatement. Last year saw one of the most polarizing and brutal presidential campaigns in the history of the United States. It seems that political disputes are unavoidable in every aspect of American lives, and Gilman is no exception. While Gilman’s Young Republicans and Young Democrats clubs do an excellent job of providing students with an outlet to voice their opinions, I have started a Political Discussion Club that aims to bring these two groups, as well as other political views, together to promote diverse and engaging discussions that will bring a range of opinions into one room where they can be heard and valued.
Gilman students show a drive to educate themselves on politics and are not afraid to voice their opinions, something I have appreciated since arriving to the school as a freshman. However, students can easily find themselves in a very polarized environment when debates arise. Gilman’s Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs offer students an environment where they can discuss politics and current events away from those who might try to begin an argument. The President of Young Democrats, Charlie J. Shapiro (‘18), says, “Everyone needs a place where they can feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging in their opinions.” However, this makes it very easy for students to surround themselves with only like-minded people, eliminating an opportunity for intellectual growth.
The separate Democrat and Republican clubs can create “echo chambers” where students only hear what they want to hear. When liberals only hear voices that agree with them, they can easily become out of touch with the issues raised by conservatives, or vice versa. Will Weinfeld (‘17), president of Young Republicans, attempted to combat this “echo chamber” dilemma by inviting liberal-leaning students to meetings. When asked about his decision to invite opposing opinions to Young Republicans, Weinfeld said, “As I pointed out in my senior speech, I believe in honest dialogue and freedom of speech. I want to have an opportunity for everyone to voice their opinions." I agree with Weinfeld and think constructive conversations need opposing viewpoints.
There is no doubt, however, that the separate club system allows for students to feel comfortable with their own opinions. In order to accommodate for both of these points, Political Discussion Club will not be limited to one side or position, but rather invite people with opposing opinions to discuss or debate relevant and current events in the world today. I feel it is important for students at Gilman to talk to people that disagree with them to create a conversation with different opinions. I also want to encourage people who aren't as active in following politics to come and hear both sides of important issues and become more informed on what is going on at such a critical time in national and global politics. I hope having Mike Willis (‘18) and Liam Muhly (‘18) as Vice Presidents will balance out my admittedly far left opinions and create a place where people with various views can feel welcome and know that their opinion will be listened to, respected, and appreciated.