In early November and just ahead of the midterm elections, the McCain-Ravenel Center for Intellectual and Moral Courage invited an array of outside speakers to campus to touch on relevant topics and ignite conversation. Incoming Director of the McCain-Ravenel Center Ryan Pemberton said, “The students were able to interact in a real and meaningful way with practitioners from media, politics, and the tech world, who connected the classroom to the world beyond the gates. This experience was designed to help our students become more thoughtful consumers of media and, we hope, more engaged citizens.”
Building on the Civil Dialogue Project launched last year, the programs sought to provide students with a framework to productively process and address issues surrounding the current media landscape, intellectual and moral courage, and the midterm election through a series of presentations, discussions, and debates between individuals with differing ideas and perspectives.
On Sunday evening, the community heard from Izzy Ortega, the national spokesperson for The LIBRE Initiative — a leading Latino advocacy organization, and Ron Steslow, founder and host of the Politicology podcast. As seasoned political and media consultants, Ortega and Steslow centered their conversation on our current political and media landscape. The discussion focused on a historical look at the connection between our media and our civic discourse while providing students with practical information about positive media consumption in preparation for the next day’s activities.
The following day, students in grades ten through twelve watched a debate between Anna Taylor, Counsel in the Office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Tuck Shumack, Principal at Ogilvy Government Relations. Moderated by John Gable ’83, co-founder of AllSides.com, the debate centered on policy-related statements presented by Xandy Veague ’23, vice-president of Episcopal’s Young Democrats, and Nathan Dewitte ’23, President of Episcopal’s Young Republicans with discussion topics ranging from college loan forgiveness to climate change and from income inequality to inflation.
Reflecting on her experience, Veague said, “The relevancy of today's MRC programming is what made it so interesting. I was able to connect everything that each panelist and Mr. Gable said to our current political climate. This election is the first time I have voted, and today's discussions made me realize how important where I get my information is.”
After the debate, sophomores, juniors, and seniors moved into small group conversations facilitated by EHS faculty members, during which they voted on discussion topics from the debate, leveraged AllSides.com to research the topics, and analyzed the issues offering pros and cons. During their discussions, students evaluated their observations based on the Portrait of a Graduate qualities and the AllSides.com rubric. Students were challenged to bring in discussion points from the Sunday evening panel, the afternoon debate, and Gable’s Keynote lecture to their productive discussion of difficult topics.
Instrumental in planning the MRC Monday program, Mimi Schwanda, assistant director of the McCain-Ravenel Center said, "Through hearing from real-life leaders from just across the river in D.C., our students had the chance to think about navigating the current media landscape and about finding connections with those with whom they disagree — crucial skills for all students to have in today’s world."
Launched in the 2021-22 academic year, the Civil Dialogue Project is an initiative designed by Episcopal’s McCain-Ravenel Center for Intellectual and Moral Courage to model civil discussion by engaging knowledgeable external speakers with differing perspectives in thoughtful conversations.