Earlier this month, the School gathered in Callaway Chapel for the second installment of the Civil Dialogue Project 2022, an initiative designed to model civil discussion by engaging knowledgeable external speakers with differing perspectives in thoughtful conversations. All topics discussed during these evening sessions are submitted by the student body to ensure they are not only timely in nature but also of importance to the students.
In April, students had the opportunity to hear from Jean Card, principal of Jean Card Ink, a D.C. Metro Area communications consulting firm, and Karissa Willhite and Chris Giblin ’86 P’16 ’19 ’22, both principals at Ogilvy Government Relations, one of Washington's most respected bipartisan government relations firms.
In each session, the differences of opinion and perspective were clear; however, the spirit of the conversations enabled students to see humanistic, respectful exchanges. Consistent themes about productive working relationships that emerged in both sessions highlighted the importance and power of intellectual debate based in fact and willingness to thoughtfully compromise. All acknowledged the power of one’s personal beliefs but challenged students to push past that comfort into embracing a genuine curiosity about the perspectives others hold and a willingness to engage in earnest conversation about why they hold their beliefs. Speakers also all stressed how crucial it is to develop one’s own opinions based on research and facts.
In touching on the media’s influence in our country, Willhite echoed the sentiments of her peers in both sessions, “Our self-selection of our news sources is driving that personal wedge more and more. If you're only hearing from news sources that you agree with, then you're not learning to think critically. So do a little research, ask questions, hear from both sides on an issue, and then begin forming your own informed opinions.”
“It is our responsibility to be leaders,” Giblin told students in April. “And that's what Episcopal High School has always been about: producing leaders. You all are the next leaders of our country, and you have a burden on yourselves to read and understand what is going on and why, to absorb it, and then to be positive leaders.”