Trinity College recently provided an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff members to attend the Connecticut Forum program, “Liz Cheney in Conversation with David Ignatius: On Defending Democracy and Finding a Path Forward.” The sold-out event was held at Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on March 14.

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Washington Post reporter David Ignatius leads a conversation with former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) at the Connecticut Forum event held at the Bushnell in Hartford on Thursday, March 14, 2024. Photos by Nick Caito, courtesy of Connecticut Forum.

The week after the forum, Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney invited those who attended from the College community to reflect on the conversation as part of the Bridging Divides series, which promotes small group discussions about challenging topics that shape our viewpoints but also may divide our society.

One of the students in attendance was Rose Ferrie, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at Trinity. Ferrie also is a staff member in Trinity’s Advancement Office. Her personal reflection on the event:

I was interested in attending this evening at the Connecticut Forum because I believe that allowing students to take advantage of these important conversations and events is pivotal to liberal arts education.

Liz Cheney is a former U.S. Congresswoman from Wyoming (2017-2023) and served as vice chair of the select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection. David Ignatius is an award-winning Washington Post columnist and author, and is an expert on national security, cyberwar, artificial intelligence, and the spread of misinformation.

Connecticut Forum Liz Cheney
Former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) at the Connecticut Forum.

On stage at the Bushnell, the two panelists discussed Cheney’s upbringing as a daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, her journey into her political career, and her book, Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning. Both agreed that U.S. politics today seem more divided than ever.

Cheney said, “For the country to get back on solid footing, we need to demand more from our politicians, from our democratic process.” She added that, as we are now in an election year, it is vital for people of all demographics to register to vote and be active participants in our government.

Several days after the Forum, Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney invited members of the College community who attended to have an opportunity to talk about individual takeaways as part of Bridging Divides.

“This new series will empower our small residential college community to come together, bridge divides across a range of identities and ideologies, and reject far-too-common paradigms that unnecessarily increase tensions between groups,” said Berger-Sweeney.

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Trinity College graduate and undergraduate students were among those who attended the Connecticut Forum event.

We discussed the differing points of view between the moderator and the former Congresswoman and how they were still having a productive conversation. It can be difficult to have such strong holds on one’s beliefs and engage with someone who adamantly opposes your own thinking. While it can feel unnatural or uncomfortable, this is a skill we can practice by inviting ourselves into these types of discussions. The goal should be to listen and hear where this person is coming from. The conclusion of these conversations does not have to be an agreement; it often is not. It is also important to always be seeking out knowledge from various viewpoints and coming to your own conclusions.

Something I am learning in my public policy classes, as well as in this discussion with President Berger-Sweeney and classmates, is that social and political changes can feel big and out of reach. When we see these problems at the federal level, we can feel so far from that discussion, like our own civic power is not impactful. Trinity has the benefit of being in Hartford, so our access to the capital city allows us to be very in tune with opportunity for change.

In my “State and Local Policy” class, we are learning about the great importance of local government. Change begins locally, and by getting involved and knowing what policies are being proposed, you can be better informed about what your community will look like and create desired change. It’s a way to become an active participant in government, as Cheney encouraged.

The remaining Connecticut Forum programs in this year’s season are “Being Human in an Age of AI: Debating Advances and Ethics” on April 17 and “Chefs! Top Chefs Dish on Food, Flavor, and Culture” on May 21.