Thought from our President on our event in Charlottesville

As co-founder of Common Ground Committee, I am very excited about our public forum, “Finding Common Ground on Government’s Role In Bridging Racial Divides” which will take place this Sunday, April 22 at 1 pm at The Haven in Charlottesville, Virginia. We will be the final session of the weekend-long Listen First in Charlottesville event, part of the National Week of Conversation. We will be joined in Charlottesville by a number of organizations who, like us, are working to heal the challenges of polarization and rancorous discourse. We are pleased and honored to be working with them. And we are grateful to Donna Brazile, Michael Steele and Wendi C. Thomas for being panelists and moderator for our public forum.

On a personal note, yesterday I had the opportunity to take a private tour of James Madison’s home, Montpelier. Madison is considered the “Father of our Constitution”. I learned just how true that is. When one thinks about how countries throughout the world have adopted the principles of government that Madison put forth it is hard to imagine anyone who has had a greater impact on the evolution of global political evolution. In the US, the Constitution is something we use every day. Madison was someone who truly changed the world for the better.

He was also a slave owner. A relatively new exhibit at Montpelier brilliantly captures the impact of slavery on our nation and on the lives of the enslaved, specifically those at Montpelier. It is an undeniable fact that the early and remarkable growth of the American economy was largely built on the institution of slavery. For people like me who truly love this nation, it is painful to see and acknowledge this blight on our history. But it is important that we do so if we are to successfully bridge racial divides. It has given me a different perspective as I think about our forum on Sunday.