WVXU: Former Sens. Portman, Heitkamp talk 'civility in polarized times'

Speaker event at UC’s Portman Center for Policy Solutions draws large crowd

Approximately 150 students, faculty, staff and guests attended the speaker event “Civility in Polarized Times” held at Clifton Court Hall on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. 

At the event, two former U.S. senators — Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — spoke on the topic of how government officials must come together to solve problems and what that looked like when they held office.

“I thought it was very interesting learning how different politicians from different sides are trying to work with each other and find different solutions to find common ground,” says Natalie George, a UC economics major who was in attendance.  

Both Heitkamp and Portman took questions from the audience for over an hour, touching on subjects such as the need to refocus on the importance of the primaries and big money influences.

Portman told the audience that small donor, online fundraising —based on heated topics or salacious claims — has made a big impact on campaign financing.   

"The way people raise money these ways online requires them that, if they want to be successful, to throw out the red meat to make it more strident," Portman said in an interview with WVXU prior to the event.   

Both speakers stressed the importance of civility and being able to reach across the aisle and work with members of opposing political affiliations and come to consensus for the good of the people, and not the good of the politician.

Upon leaving office, The Portman Center was established in the former senator’s name within UC’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). A priority at the center is to develop future leaders in the public sphere from across the political spectrum, through a renewed emphasis on civility, open and inclusive dialogue, and bipartisan engagement.

SPIA was created out of the former Department of Political Science, which dates to 1914.

Read the WVXU article.

Featured image at top of Rob Portman/provided

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