When talking about civil discourse, Jack Lessenberry said it means more than listening and speaking politely to others.
Lessenberry, senior political analyst for Michigan Radio, gave the inaugural lecture during the introduction of the Padnos/Sarosik Endowed Professorship of Civil Discourse November 20 at the DeVos Center.
He recalled a time when leaders in Washington or Lansing may have been on different sides of the aisle but they cooperated and achieved legislation. And they called the other side the opposition.
"We now seem to regard the opposition as the enemy," he said.
Lessenberry projected that the tide shifted to angry after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
"For a half-century, the U.S. defined itself in relations to the Soviet Union. We were not them," he said. After the end of the Cold War, Lessenberry said, "We were alone … and the United States were not united."
The event also introduced the first faculty member to hold the professorship: Lisa M. Perhamus, assistant professor of education.
The endowed professorship was a gift to Grand Valley from longtime supporters Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik. Padnos chairs Grand Valley’s Board of Trustees.