Vanderbilt students participate in Bush Institute democracy listening sessions

Students from across Vanderbilt joined representatives from the George W. Bush Institute to share their thoughts and views on democracy, leadership and practicing good citizenship.  

“I was encouraged by how participants brought a palpable passion and strong feelings to the conversation without stepping over the edge into incivility,” said Chris Walsh, global policy director for the George W. Bush Institute. “Disagreements were met with understanding and acceptance, which was pleasantly surprising.” 

These sessions took place April 10 in the relaxed environment of the Dialogue Vanderbilt offices. The Bush Institute’s aim is to understand and promote views on democratic values, responsible civic participation and civility—which mirrors Dialogue Vanderbilt’s focus on modeling, researching and showcasing free expression and civil discourse. 

“We appreciate the Bush Institute’s commitment to democracy and civil discourse and were so glad that our students had an opportunity to engage in these listening sessions and actively offer constructive ideas on how to strengthen our democracy,” said Darren Reisberg, senior counselor to Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. 

More than 20 undergraduate students from various disciplines gathered to discuss with fellow students and the facilitators some of the fundamental challenges facing the United States. One of the major themes that emerged throughout the discussions was trust. The students participating wanted to be able to trust more and felt that the erosion of trust between individuals and institutions has hurt our society. The students disagreed on a definitive solution but were united in the belief that finding a solution is crucial. 

The George W. Bush Institute works to develop programming focused on American democracy. It seeks to understand different perspectives on democracy, leadership, citizenship, pluralism, trust and social activism. The institute will use insight gained from the sessions at Vanderbilt and other institutes of higher education to inform its reports, articles, policy briefs and strategic program development.  

Dialogue Vanderbilt and the Bush Institute will explore ways in which this partnership to create better dialogue can continue. 

To learn more about Dialogue Vanderbilt, visit Dialogue Vanderbilt. 

To keep up with the George W. Bush Institute, visit