For some time now our national discourse has grappled with the tone and intractability of sharply opposing worldviews. Pundits and legislators occupy hardened positions, lobbing insults and dire warnings across a razor-wired divide that seems too deep and treacherous to cross.

Some characterize this state of affairs as a culture war.

At Saint Mary’s we observe this national debate with great interest — because it cuts to the very core of who we are: a learning community where the liberal arts and the Catholic intellectual tradition are viewed as powerful levers for probing existence, understanding each other and building a society that works.

We suggest that the intellectual skills and respectful habits of listening, discourse and collaboration — catalyzed by exposure to a world of ideas and honed in Collegiate Seminar — are the very tools needed to bridge the chasm of disagreement.

Does it always work? Of course not. As you will read in the following stories, alumni who have labored in the trenches of national and state government report mixed results. Our scholars and others examine the possible causes, consequences and solutions to the gridlock that prevents us from solving some of our most significant societal problems. And we revisit some of the elemental experiences that shape Saint Mary’s students and prepare them to bring their own voices to the conversation, beginning in Collegiate Seminar. We tried to capture the distinctive character of this core Saint Mary’s experience by using a graphic novel approach.

Please join the discussion. Send us your constructive ideas for building bridges across the divide. news@stmarys-ca.edu.

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