Tuesday night in Weiser Hall, WeListen hosted a discussion focused on America’s role in foreign policy to a room of roughly 30 students.
WeListen brings together groups of students from various political backgrounds to bridge the increasing political divide on campus. The organization focuses on understanding other opinions to create healthy discussion.
After a short presentation about the basic history and statistics of U.S. foreign policy, students were sorted into politically diverse groups. Starting first with ice breakers and then delving into the topic, many students said their knowledge of foreign policy was slim.
Engineering junior Kyle Herbstreit said he found the members of his discussion group also struggled with the topic.
“I think a lot of people don’t know much about foreign policy because there’s a whole world to learn about and read about and understand,” Herbstreit said. “I kind of know a fair amount but that’s just from my one perspective, from where I come from, and I wanted to hear what some other people had to say.”
LSA sophomore Armen Movsesian agreed the group’s knowledge was limited, but found the best remedy was to start big and narrow down as the conversation flowed.
“Our conversation started off very broad and we tried to get more specific and basically the conclusion that we came to is that based on each individual case of intervention abroad has several implications politically, economically, even morally,” Movsesian said.
LSA senior Keegan McGuire, vice president of operations for WeListen, understands the topics often influence the makeup of attendees.
“I think it depends on the topic,” McGuire said. “Some topics, I would argue, have more of a returning group just because it’s a mainstream topic. Others, like this one for instance, draws a different crowd. People might be more politically inclined, might be interested in more of a geopolitics sort of mindset.”
WeListen Co-President Kate Westa, an LSA junior, said she enjoys these meetings because it gives her an opportunity to learn about differing opinions.
“So I’m involved in a political group on campus and I was finding myself enjoying having that place to go to once a week to talk to like-minded people,” Westa said. “But (also) wanting to go somewhere else to be able to have a discussion with people who think differently than myself and WeListen is the perfect place for that.”
McGuire agreed with Westa and understands critics may not find WeListen the best environment for discussion.
“Like Kate, I really was just searching for an opportunity to have these conversations and I don’t think WeListen achieves anything perfectly, but I think it does a lot of things extremely well,” McGuire said.
LSA sophomore Cydney Gardner-Brown created and hosts her own talk show “The Sit Down,” and will be hosting the co-presidents on her show in a few weeks. She believes WeListen in theory is cutting-edge, but wonders if people learn anything from the discussions.
“I was interested in how they chose to debrief it and I’m actually curious about whether or not there was a lack of sharing,” Gardner-Brown said.