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Hauenstein Center discussion focuses on finding common ground

  • Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center
  • The American Conversations Series: Is Common Ground Possible?
  • Many students were part of the audience for the American Conversations Series event.
  • Gleaves Whitney

Posted on September 10, 2013

Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies hosted a lively discussion September 9, about the possibility of finding common ground in a divisive political environment. 

Before a standing-room-only crowd, Hauenstein Center director Gleaves Whitney cited historical examples and included references to the Founding Fathers as part of the discussion. 

Whitney also discussed situations when compromise and finding common ground was not an option, including when President Lincoln refused to compromise with the South during the Civil War era. 

“In the American system at its best, there are times when compromise isn’t the best option,” Whitney said. “But conditional compromise is a powerful tool when our leaders seek it out. Compromise is part of our DNA as Americans. It’s part of who we are.”

Whitney said some of the best examples of compromise among American politicians included the Homestead Act, a compromise involving the interstate highway system, and several others. Whitney said there were at least another dozen and a half examples that didn’t involve war or crisis.

Whitney gave several examples of compromise and stressed the importance of consensus building between the two major political parties, and then shifted to fielding examples of common ground from the audience. 

Several audience members provided examples of common ground among leaders they could recall, including examples from former state lawmakers, and more simple examples of finding common ground within families and regions.

The American Conversations Series continues throughout 2013 and 2014; all of the events will focus on the “common ground” theme. Upcoming American Conversations events can be found online at

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