Students reflect on the role of civil discourse at Baylor and beyond

Dr. Robert P. George and Dr. Cornel West speak about the importance of communicating civilly despite political or ideological differences. Sophie Acebo | Reporter

By Sophie Acebo | Reporter

Dr. Robert P. George and Dr. Cornel West came to speak on campus Friday as part of Baylor’s 2019-2020 Conversation Series, focusing on the topic of civil discourse and finding ways to communicate despite differences.

With George, a Princeton professor, being on the more conservative side of the political spectrum and West, a Harvard professor, on the more progressive side, the two highlighted how, despite their opposing beliefs, they are still extremely close friends who can argue civilly.

Students, faculty and staff were all encouraged to attend the event.

Chicago senior Billy Bizub was one of many who attended the event to hear from George and West.

“I thought the speakers were two very well-spoken, polite individuals who both made very interesting and valid points about their beliefs on civil discourse,” Bizub said.

The two speakers touched on integrity and stability as two key factors in their ability to remain friends despite their differing opinions.

“I enjoyed hearing Dr. George talk about how the one thing that we absolutely cannot lose is our soul,” Bizub said. “He went on to talk about the importance of the stability between his and West’s discourse.”

Waco sophomore Katy Dulany also attended Friday’s event and said she appreciated their ability to communicate effectively and in a civil way.

“I enjoyed the speakers,” Dulany said. “I especially thought West was a very impressive rhetorician and an inspiring public speaker.”

One takeaway Dulany said stuck with her was the topic of spirituality and how it connects with civil discourse.

“I really enjoyed the way they discussed the importance of civil discourse and how it is okay to disagree, but we also need to be humble enough to admit when we are wrong,” Dulany said. “I also loved when they talked about how even those we disagree with are made in the image of God.”

Cypress sophomore Samantha Weekes said that topics like this are vital in understanding one another.

“It’s important to engage in conversation with people who have different outlooks, experiences and beliefs from yourself because, as social beings, it’s intended for us to enhance our understanding of others,” Weekes said.

Bizub said that topics like civil discourse are relevant not just for the Baylor community, but for everyone in the midst of a polarizing climate.

“I think these topics are very important because we live in a time when uncivil discourse is all that we hear about,” Bizub said. “I think we have become so trivialized in our beliefs that it can come as a shock to some people that two people with different ideas can get along, so I think that the more we’re exposed to these types of conversations, the better.”

Dulany said the spiritual significance of the speakers’ messages was a reason why these conversations are important to have and to act on.

“I think that, in today’s society, it is important to remember that even the people we disagree with share the same identity of children of God with us,” Dulany said. “I think that often we can be a lot of talk and not a lot of action. It was really cool to actually see two people who are different share in a sweet friendship and be able to talk about why they’re friends and why it’s important to be with people you disagree with.”

Weekes said George and West’s message also caused the audience to think of the bigger picture and about how this conversation could impact Baylor and its community.

“I hope this conversation will not only build bridges between the classrooms here in Baylor, but also students’ wider lives and through the Waco community,” Weekes said.

Dulany mentioned the “Baylor bubble” and said she hopes these conversations will break through that and impact society.

“I think Baylor is an awesome university and has a big role in this world, but sometimes we do get stuck in our bubble where everyone around us seems just like us and we can lose track of the big world outside of Baylor and Waco,” Dulany said. “I think conversations like this broaden our worldviews and remind us that it’s important to be engaging in civil discourse and that the Christian faith is not immune to disagreement and that it’s okay to disagree and have convictions.”

Visit the Conversation Series website for a list of upcoming events.