Cornel West and Robert George

Common Ground Initiative

This program prepares a new generation of leaders to work constructively with people from diverse cultures and different worldviews. Our initiative is unique in higher education today. No other public university in the U.S. is offering a balanced, comprehensive exploration (and redefinition) of what it means to be conservative and what it means to be progressive in the 21st century.

The Hauenstein Center brings these diverse camps onto the same stage to search for actionable common ground. We believe that through principled civic engagement and civil discourse, there are more possibilities between progressives and conservatives to work together than usually realized or acknowledged.

Our initiative is a nationwide effort. Committed to the best practices of civil debate, mediation, and negotiation, we bring together community leaders in an open, respectful, intellectually honest forum to confront the political, economic, social, and cultural challenges Americans face. Our initiative welcomes partnerships and training opportunities with organizations in West Michigan and throughout the state and nation.

Academic rigor requires intellectual diversity and the free interchange of ideas between the left and the right. However, numerous recent books, surveys, and articles suggest that the opposite is occurring in the academy: the ideological gulf between conservatives and progressives, particularly in the humanities and the social sciences, is actually widening.

What is the Common Ground Initiative at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies?

  • The Common Ground Initiative is unique in higher education today. No other public university in the U.S. is offering a balanced, comprehensive exploration (and redefinition) of what it means to be conservative and what it means to be progressive in the 21st century. Our talks, roundtables, and debates investigate the first principles of these two traditions, and explore the possible common ground that they might share – historically, culturally, politically.
  • Academic rigor requires intellectual diversity. The Common Ground Initiative brings together progressives and conservatives in an open, respectful, intellectually rigorous forum to confront the challenges Americans face.

  • Our goal is not to turn Democrats into Republicans or Republicans into Democrats. Our goal is to prepare a new generation of leaders to deal effectively with diverse ideas and cultures. Adapting the tools developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project and others, we provide workshops that equip emergent leaders with best practices based on rigorous scholarship, sound psychology, and cultural competence.

  • On the conservative side, we work with the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. On the progressive side, we work with the Progressive Women’s Alliance, Center for Inquiry, and other organizations. We also partner with the President Gerald R. Ford Foundation, Ford Presidential Library and Museum, World Affairs Council, Paul Henry Institute, National Park Service, and other civic and educational entities.

  • Our pilot Common Ground programs have been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Meijer Foundation, Ralph W. Hauenstein, and other donors.

  • Our debates feature the all-stars — Christopher Hitchens vs. Peter Hitchens (referenced on 60 Minutes), Arianna Huffington vs. Victor Davis Hanson, Katrina vanden Heuvel vs. Rich Lowry, Susan Jacoby vs. Dinesh D’Souza, and others. We have hosted H. W. Brands, Richard Norton Smith, Kiron Skinner, Robert Caro, Amity Shlaes, Robert Dallek, and other historians and leadership writers.

  • Our Common Ground Initiative reinforces the Hauenstein Center’s mission: to raise up a new generation of men and women committed to the ethical, effective leadership and public service that Ralph W. Hauenstein exemplified throughout his life.

  • The Common Ground Podcast Beyond Aporia provides our listeners with an opportunity to hear conversations with the world-renowned speakers the Center brings in each year. We discuss their work with a view towards the current socio-political climate, while always striving to demonstrate the need to achieve respectful, mutual understanding.

Programming Suggestions

Have you ever listened to a podcast, watched or attended a lecture, read a book/article and wanted to bring the speaker/conversation to your community? Now’s your chance! The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies wants your input on potential speakers, topics, and programs. Your ideas and suggestions may be accepted and implemented into the Center’s programming. Simply submit your information in the space below and if you’d like, a member of the Hauenstein Center’s staff will reach out to you for further discussion on your suggestion. We’re serious, we want to hear your ideas!

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Luis Avila: Frederik Meijer Lecture Series

December 2, 2022 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Eyeing the Bench: A Supreme Court Panel

December 8, 2022 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

See No Stranger: An Evening with Valarie Kaur

February 23, 2023 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM

View More Events

Past Common Ground Events

H.W. Brands

Election Panel

Cheif Isaiah McKinnon

Page last modified October 27, 2021