It’s not often that the words civility and politics are used together in 2022.
In fact, it seems impossible to find an example of two people who share opposing viewpoints treating each other with respect, much less working together.
But amid all the mudslinging of election-year politics, two Longwood students–one the president of the College Republicans and the other the president of the College Democrats–have found that working together is better than working against each other.
Our conversations have always been really positive because I think we’d both rather build bridges than burn them down.Emily Robertson ’24 Tweet This
It’s a relationship built on mutual respect, admiration and, in the end, a few shared goals that are more important than policy differences.
“We both want more students to be involved in the political clubs on campus because we both feel passionately that these issues need action,” said Kayleigh Weinbarger ’23, an elementary education major from Mechanicsville and the president of the College Republicans. “We know that college students have some of the lowest participation rates in the electoral process, and that’s got to change. Regardless of where you stand, voting is so important.”
That sentiment is music to the ears of Emily Robertson ’24, a communication studies major from South Hill and president of the College Democrats. She took the helm of the group in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and almost immediately started planning voter-registration drives.
“When Kayleigh was elected president of the College Republicans in April, we reached out to each other and started to work together on a voter drive,” said Robertson. “It came together quickly because we both share the same outlook on the importance of voting. Our conversations have always been really positive because I think we’d both rather build bridges than burn them down.”
Everyone gets to have opinions–that’s what makes us diverse and unique–but we have to be able to respect each other.Kayleigh Weinbarger ’23 Tweet This
That’s not to say that it wasn’t strange for some of the members when it came time to actually sit at a table on Brock Commons with someone from the other side of the aisle.
“We were sitting there and some of the members were a little skeptical, but now that we’ve worked together more often, they think it’s a really good thing–and almost fun,” said Weingarten.
Being an election year, there are plenty of guests to invite to campus. The Robertson and Weingarten invited both congressional candidates to campus, but schedules got in the way. But they didn’t let the idea end there.
“We wanted to have a joint event with some candidates,” said Robertson. “Both of our clubs have as a goal to be influential in local and regional politics because our voices are important. So when the congressional candidates fell through, we asked the candidates for Farmville mayor to appear together to meet the students.”
That event happened Thursday, when members of both groups hosted local candidates Brian Vincent and Carl Eggleston in Allen Hall. Candidates and students talked about plans for the town, the university and the Central Virginia region.
“In the past, my group hasn’t really worked much with the College Democrats, but both Emily and I want to change that,” said Weinbarger. “I just want to change the outlook of people in both parties who think that they can’t get along with someone who doesn’t think exactly like them. I’m proof of that and so is Emily. Everyone gets to have opinions–that’s what makes us diverse and unique–but we have to be able to respect each other.”