Skip to Main Content

Students Engage in Bipartisan ‘Rise for America’ Campaign

Political Science

PICTURED ABOVE is the Wilmington College contingent, from the left, of Garrett Simmons, Michael Snarr and Megan Schwendeman, with other convention participants.

Too often political rivalries and polarization spill over into personal relationships and civil discourse — or the lack thereof and bipartisanship is often seen as a relic from a distant age.

Earlier this month in the historic city of Gettysburg, PA, two Wilmington College students and a faculty member addressed the question, "What does it mean to rise for America?" by taking action to bridge the political divide and bring a spirit of goodwill to American politics.

Wilmington College's Dr. Michael Snarr, professor of political science, along with WC junior Garrett Simmons and senior Megan Schwendeman, participated in the 2023 Braver Angels Convention.

Nearly 700 convention delegates, linked to more than 200 organizations and equally divided between those who lean left and lean right, gathered to launch a national civic renewal movement, clarify ideological differences, find common ground where it exists and, in turn, strengthen the nation. National leaders attended the convention, including U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), who referred to Braver Angels volunteers as his “heroes,” and the keynote speaker, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R-UT), who promised to elevate Braver Angels’ work in his post as chair of the National Governors Association. 

Convention delegates participated in debates confronting controversial questions, such as “Is America a Racist Nation?” and “Should We Abolish DEI?” They also attended panels that explored such issues as whether the media could go from being the problem to the solution, and how the public health community can regain the trust of the American public after COVID-19.

When Snarr discussed with the students an opportunity to attend the convention, Simmons was intrigued about a group "focused on depolarization" at such a precarious time in the nation's history. "I saw the national convention as a way to learn more about the Braver Angels and as a chance to meet with people from across the political aisle. I was most excited to be able to debate with people in a mediated environment," he said.

Simmons added that the experience has helped him to become more well-rounded politically.

"I was able to hear from people who I would never encounter in my home environment. Some of the great ideas were expressed by people I vote completely different from," he said. "I think the Braver Angels initiative is crucial to the future of this country. We must learn to meet with those we disagree with. We all want what is best for our nation and we need to work together to create a place we all want to live in." 

The grassroots Rise for America campaign offers citizens the chance to get involved and take action to help build bridges between opposing sides. By fostering respectful dialogues and engaging in deep listening, individuals can resolve divisive conflicts and create connections that change relationships to strengthen our democratic republic. 

Participants in the fall 2023 campaign have the option to take at least one of five different actions designed to depolarize our political conversations. Braver Angels will act as a resource providing supporting materials and guidance to everyone who undertakes these initiatives.

The five actions include hosting a Braver Angels documentary party in their homes, bringing family and friends to a workshop that teaches individuals how to examine attitudes and beliefs from others’ perspectives, coordinating an introduction to Braver Angels in their community, training to become a debate chair for school and community debates, and creating a unique and engaging event or action of their own personal interest.