By Allie Moore
Living in a politically divided country can bring up an abundance of feelings: anger, fear, sadness, or even hopelessness.
This past Thursday, Trent Lott, former Mississippi senator, and Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor, spoke at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism’s Overby Center on how our country can move forward in a divided country.
“Division is not unknown in American history,” Barbour said. “But, this is about as bad as it’s been.”
Barbour went on to discuss the extreme polarity today with a lack of finding middle ground. He sees this as being caused by social media.
“Everybody has access to all sorts of information, and you have no idea whether it’s accurate or not,” Barbour said. “Rarely a week goes by that I am sent an article that is no truer than the man and the moon.”
Barbour, who served as governor during Hurricane Katrina in 2006, has the University of Mississippi’s Center of Manufacturing Excellence named after him due to his economic success during his two terms.
Through what he has seen throughout his political history, there have been divided governments that have worked well, but now,there is an expectation that political parties have to align completely with their morals.
“We’ve seen it in our times that a divided government can work,” Barbour said. “What we’ve seen recently is that the Democratic party has moved too much to the left, and the Republicans haven’t moved too much right, but they have become such perfectionists. And, the two movements are having the same [negative] effect.”
As to the root of our country’s division, Trent Lott expressed that it is due to lack of proper leadership.
The University’s Lott Leadership Institute prepares students to be successful leaders in the state and nation. Lott said that today leadership as something our government lacks.
“Yes, we are [divided], but we can get over it,” Lott said. “The thing that would cure it is one word: leadership.”
Lott advised that women and men can come together to get a result through both communication and chemistry.
“One of the most important tools of leadership is your ears,” Lott said. “Communication is an important part of getting through what we are dealing with now. The other thing is chemistry, and creating those relationships.”
While things might be rocky right now, Lott and Barbour encourage citizens to not lose hope and emphasize that change can happen.
“We’re hoping that by what we have happening here at Ole Miss with the Lott Leadership Institute and the Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence that you will be trained in the technology, philosophy, and leadership skills to make America what she can be,” Lott said.
Added Barbour, “Americans don’t like change, but Americans are good at change.”