Near the end of last term, Knox Conservatives hosted a set of dialogues titled Change My Mind, inviting public interaction about issues such as borders and abortion. The event garnered a great deal of attention from both students and faculty on campus. Multiple articles have been written about the events; however, no statement has been made from members within the club. Thus, we would like to clarify our intentions and speculate about future plans.
Our intention with the Change My Mind event was to encourage people on campus in interacting with each other, talking about issues and sharing different perspectives. We hope that people found areas of agreement and a better understanding of one another. Also, our club members made themselves available to the public in hopes that people would ask questions and know they would be listened to and answered respectfully. Some may have changed their minds about the issues; our hope is that many more have altered their views about the importance of dialogue across the aisle.
Nearly universally, our members have heard conservatives called hateful, bigoted or malevolent on this campus, and with these labels it is also said that dialogue between liberals and conservatives is worse than pointless. We disagree, of course. Conservative beliefs are derived from values that a vast majority of people hold, such as justice, freedom, compassion, peace and protecting the innocent. We know that we hold these values in common with many people here at Knox (and the human race as a whole). In building from these shared values, we hope to reduce blind, partisan hatred. It is often in applying those values to policies and government roles that people disagree, and we believe that starting dialogue by finding a common point or value is important and productive.
Over the course of two days, we had many productive and interesting discussions. We were pleased with how people were willing to share, discuss, question, and most importantly, listen. We were overjoyed at how difficult it was to close the event at the end of both days, due to people’s eagerness to continue the conversation. Immediately after the first day’s dialogue ended, we received questions on whether we were hosting another the following day or in the future. We were delighted to hear that people wanted to return! We acknowledge that debate rarely lets people come together, but instead stokes passions along partisan lines. As a club, we made sure before holding the event to review resources, to practice answering tough questions with respect and clarity, and to emphasize our goal of promoting conversations, not debates.
We believe the event was a success. Thank you to everyone who participated! The club will continue to pursue events that encourage dialogue and we hope to gain feedback on how to better reach as many willing people as possible. During the February event, participants were asked to sign up to receive an email regarding a debrief event, including pizza with the entire Knox Conservative Club. At our April 2 meeting we had a public debrief session to hear feedback from Knox students who attended the event. This feedback will be used for another Change My Mind event we plan to do later this term, as well as for other dialogue-focused events.
We hope this provides some insight into the rationale and intentions of Knox Conservatives. If you have any questions, please stop by our meetings on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in Alumni Hall Room 115 and email our president at email@example.com or our secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rae Sullivan and Jessica Hickey
On behalf of Knox Conservatives