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October 4, 2012

Insights & Outbursts: A election year breath of fresh air

“We own what we build, but as human beings, we are also built, not primarily by government but by institutions that shape our character. Responsible self-governing citizens … are cultivated in families, religious institutions and orderly hopeful neighborhoods and government has a limited but important role in creating an atmosphere where community can flourish.” — Michael Gerson.

The older I get, the more disgusted I am with the petty pursuits of political parties in an election year. Democrats claim Republicans are waging a “war on women” while Republicans rage against “ObamaCare,” ignoring domestic and foreign challenges that require compromise, not sound bites.

Thanks to fact-checking organizations, discerning voters know that both parties stretch the truth in election years. Only rabid Republicans and diehard Democrats can listen to campaign ads filled with lies and exaggerations and feel justified by their own prejudices.

When I heard about a lecture series at Gordon College with Michael Gerson talking about “The role of citizens, government and civil society” in the Science Center on Sept. 13 and “Three Responses to Suffering” in the Chapel on Sept. 14, I attended both lectures, eager for mature political commentary. (Note: Both talks are available at

As a PBS Newshour fan, I’ve enjoyed discussions between Republicans and Democrats, usually David Brooks and Mark Shields, but occasionally other pundits, including Gerson. All of them are able to disagree without demonizing their opponents, a rare trait in both parties these days.

Michael Gerson was the head speech writer and a senior policy advisor to President George W. Bush and is a leading conservative voice on the national media stage, writing about politics, religion, foreign policy and global health and development twice a week in the Washington Post.

He is a moderate Republican and like a moderate Democrat, doesn’t fit into “Tea Party” or “Occupy Wall Street” positions and I was impressed by his comments on the topic question, “Whose responsibility is opportunity?

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