The brand-new Institute of Politics at Florida State University kicked off the month of March with its inaugural keynote panel discussion featuring Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and former Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), moderated by the Honorable Al Cardenas. The panel discussed the importance of civic engagement, political participation and civil discourse in contemporary American politics.
The event was originally scheduled to take place on Jan. 14 of as part of the “Kickoff and Keynote” series with Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). However, due to the riot at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6 and the uncertainty across the country leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration of Joe Biden, the event was rescheduled. Despite planning mishaps, the event still seemed to be right on time as the legislators discussed important topics and answered difficult questions with unity and respect for one another, something our country has not seen up close in the last four years.
Florida State University President John Thrasher set the tone for the night before the discussion began. Prior to introducing each guest, Thrasher made clear his stance on the state of the U.S. government before its transition on Jan. 20.
“The tremendous interest in tonight’s program reaffirms something I have always known, that most Americans want civility in their political process and that they are more interested in problems that face our states and nations than in partisan bickering. Sadly, recent events have shown us that we have a lot of work to do to heal the wounds that this partisan divide has inflicted on our country,” Thrasher said.
Following Thrasher’s words, each official seemed to share a similar sentiment, harping on the importance of unifying the nation.
“I think it is terribly important that we look to how we can work together as people. Democrats are not the enemy. All Americans, Republicans and Democrats, can and will find a way to work together. We make it a better country,” Martinez said.
Cardenas, the moderator, made sure to challenge each legislator by asking questions that were relevant and controversial. From inquiries regarding each senator’s thoughts on the events that took place on Jan. 6, to whether or not the minimum wage should be increased, the conversation was edifying and gave perspective to many that may have been struggling to take a stance.
The mission of the Institute of Politics at FSU is to promote nonpartisan engagement in politics by students and citizens. According to IOPFSU.com, “The IOP@FSU offers wide-ranging opportunities for FSU students to become civically engaged, promotes research in politics, citizen involvement, and public service, and promotes the awareness of politics, citizen involvement, and public service in the general public.”