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Reaching across the political divide and building trust

U.S. Representatives Fred Upton and Debbie Dingell Civility Tour
Rodney Jaren Coleman-Robinson
On August 1, 2022, President Montgomery hosted a conversation in Heritage Hall with esteemed members of congress Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn to discuss collegiality in politics and government. President Montgomery speaks and acts as moderator for the WeTalk conversation with Fred Upton and Debbie Dingell.

The program was presented by WMU We Talk, the university's initiative aimed to encourage civil, but substantive discussions of important topics

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell says there is a real threat from people trying to cause distrust in institutions. The Democratic Representative says that can put Democracy in danger. Dingell and West Michigan Congressman Fred Upton came to the Western Michigan University campus to discuss political polarization and ways to promote civility.

Dingell was first elected to Congress in 2014. She won the seat in the district that her husband John represented. John Dingell did not seek re-election in 2014, and died in 2019. Upton was first elected in 1986, the Republican represented announced in April that he would not seek re-election this year.

Western Michigan University President Edward Montgomery moderated the discussion, he noted that he first met Upton and Dingell during the auto crisis in 2008. At the time, Montgomery was auto czar in the Obama administration. Upton was serving in the House, and Dingell’s husband John was also in Congress at the time. Montgomery asked if it’s still possible for big solutions to be reached on a bipartisan basis.

Upton says he would like to think so, but he says recent legislation to make sure that semiconductor chips are available shows the difficulty of the current political climate. Upton says Republican leadership worked hard against the bill, but in the end, there was enough support for approval. The St. Joseph Republican says he and Dingell worked together, across party lines to pass the legislation.

Both Upton and Dingell are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus in the U.S. House. Dingell says that caucus has adopted what she calls “the John Dingell rule.” John Dingell would not campaign against another member of the Michigan Congressional delegation. Debbie Dingell says her husband believed it was important to maintain trust with people who you have to work with on state issues. The Problem Solvers Caucus members take a similar pledge.

Click the icon above to hear the full discussion.

Western is also participating in StoryCorps One Small Step. StoryCorps founder Dave Isay visited Western in March to discuss the initiative designed to help Americans reach across the political divide. More details can be found here.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.