Reaching across party lines

Former House minority leader Rep. Bob Michel (left), a Peoria native and Bradley alumnus, and former House majority leader Rep. Dick Gephardt (center) of Missouri talk about the importance of bipartisanship.

July 2, 2010

Bradley University helped promote bipartisan leadership last Thursday at the nation’s capital.

The Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service co-sponsored a luncheon for freshman members of Congress to encourage senators and representatives to reach across party lines.

“Obviously, things aren’t very bipartisan in Congress right now,” said Brad McMillan, the Institute’s executive director. “We’re trying to begin a dialogue and we chose the freshman class because they’re new to their jobs and haven’t been entrenched in their ways.”

McMillan became interested in bipartisanship while serving as chief of staff for then-U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, a Bradley graduate who now serves as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. McMillan noticed how many more projects were accomplished when people worked together instead of fighting.

“The idea is to get them to start to think about forming relationships across party lines,” McMillan said. “That leads to better public policy.”

Legislators from Hawaii to New York attended Thursday’s luncheon, which also was sponsored by the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin and the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C. Bradley alumnus and U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock promoted the luncheon among his fellow legislators.

Legislators heard former House minority leader Rep. Bob Michel, a Peoria native and Bradley alumnus, and former House majority leader Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri talk about the importance of bipartisanship. Michel challenged the members of Congress to come up with compromises in the best interest of the country. Gephardt spoke about the difficulty of addressing emotional issues while still listening to those from other parties.

“Today’s highly charged political climate puts a premium on the ability of members to work across party lines.  I’m grateful to Bradley for co-hosting this lunch so my colleagues and I can hear from these two accomplished legislators,” said Congressman Schock.

Papers about bipartisanship written by McMillan and Frank Mackaman, the executive director of The Dirksen Congressional Center, also were distributed.

Instead of casting blame, legislators were encouraged to find common ground.

“I think both parties have been guilty of partisanship and lack of civility,” McMillan said. “I think there’s a much better path and history shows there’s a much better path.”

McMillan was excited about the luncheon and has plans to create more bipartisan discussion opportunities. “It’s a good start,” he said. “It was very productive. This is the first step of many that will be taken.”



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