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Penn State Deliberates

A student-run interview series from the Center for Democratic Deliberation

The goal of this series is to create a living portrait of how members of the Penn State community engage in democratic deliberation. Center for Democratic Deliberation interns Ryan Insley and Nicholas Griffin will be sitting down with students, faculty, and alumni to discuss their deliberative experiences and capture how those experiences are contextualized in the democratic sphere. 

Ryan Insley

Ryan Insley is a senior pursuing majors in English, political science, and philosophy, and a minor in communication arts & sciences. 

Deliberation plays a central role in preserving our shared democracy. “Dialogue is key,” says Daryl Davis, a hero of mine known for his success in deradicalizing members of the Ku Klux Klan and convincing them to renounce their hate. “When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting…It’s when the talking stops that the ground becomes fertile for violence. So we want to keep the conversation going.”

If there is any chance to overcome the ignorance, hostility, and cynicism which fuels our present polarization, I believe it may be found in deliberation. If we continue to neglect our neighbors because they look, think, or associate differently than we do, if we do not actively endeavor to understand and uplift one another, I fear for the future of our nation. Bridging the gaping rifts dividing us will first require a goodwill effort to overcome all hopelessness and apathy, and to address candidly, thoughtfully, and knowledgeably our contentions and differences. By deliberating with our fellow citizens across a wide array of concerns and interests, I believe we can start to actualize that goodwill effort, and begin to heal our democracy.

Throughout my career at Penn State, I have had the privilege of meeting inspiring individuals who actively engage in their democracy and use their voices to persuade, mobilize, and support their communities. When I conceived the idea of this interview series, I wanted to provide those speakers a platform so that a broader audience could benefit from knowing their stories and hearing their thoughts on the power of deliberation. I was also excited by the opportunity to engage with people in the deliberative and political space I had never met before, and broadcast their voices as well. In so doing, I hope that listeners will begin to see the diverse spaces  deliberation occupies and will start to understand its contribution to the democratic project, both locally and across the world. That is why I look forward to working with my colleague Nicholas in developing this illustration of deliberative life in our Penn State community.

Nicholas Griffin

Nicholas Griffin is a junior pursuing a major in political science and a minor in communication arts & sciences. 

As a political science major, undergoing this project was of incredible interest to me. The intricacies and details of the democratic deliberation process are abound, and everyone’s opinion about the democratic deliberation process is different. We all interact with the government, political culture, the news media, and other people differently. These differences are what makes each individual unique in the realm of politics, and I often find myself hunting for those unique qualities in people.

Since the beginning of my time at Penn State, one question regarding politics has always enamored me. That question is, “What is the impetus for the stark political division we see in the United States today?” As a part of this series, I hope to get closer in my search to the answer to this question. Because really, who is better to talk to than the student leaders/activists themselves? The people who are most interested and connected to the political landscape are the ones who I wish to converse with the most about the issues regarding democratic deliberation.

My interest in this project stems from this intense curiosity that I have about our divided political country. Furthermore, I am also interested in the democratic deliberation process in other countries. An international perspective in regards to our topic makes our view of democratic deliberation in America more clear. I am excited to undergo this task of speaking with students to get a more concise answer to this burning question with Ryan.