As a self-defined political geek, I’ve always had faith in the American political system. I’ve always believed in this democracy and its limitless potential. But like many others, I’ve been disgusted with the level of partisanship that has plagued America over these past couple years. It seems that if a Republican proposes a piece of legislation, Democrats in Congress will inevitably shut it down. If President Barack Obama suggests a bill, Speaker of the House John Boehner predictably opposes every aspect of it. Elected officials have stopped trying to determine whether or not the ideas of their political opponents are valid and simply oppose them regardless of their possible potential.

In recent years, this unprecedented level of partisanship has been readily apparent. In November’s midterm election, matters appeared to grow worse when the Republicans gained control of the House, thus polarizing our political system even more. I was beginning to lose faith. I was sure that neither side would be able to accomplish anything so long as there was a Democratic president and a Republican House. Two more years of ineffective government seemed inevitable. But then, as so many times before, America united in the face of tragedy.

On the morning of Jan. 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot along with 18 others in Tucson, Ariz. During the memorial service for the victims of this tragedy, Obama spoke about bipartisanship in one of his most inspirational and least politically-driven speeches thus far in his presidency. He outlined for all Americans how we can honor Representative Giffords and the other victims by working together to end partisanship.

Soon after Obama’s touching speech, members of both political parties worked together to create a new seating arrangement for the State of the Union address. Unlike the usual seating arrangement based on party affiliation, this one was randomized and had Democrats and Republicans sitting among each other. While many believe this unprecedented seating was irrelevant and unnecessary, it actually stood for something much more than a random arrangement.

For the first time in a couple years, Americans were able to watch their elected officials act civilly toward each other. Considering that the last State of the Union was interrupted by Congressman Joe Wilson shouting out “You lie!” at the president, it was refreshing to see Democrats and Republicans clapping and laughing together. However, as Obama made it very clear in his State of the Union speech, “What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.”

Unlike most State of the Union speeches, Obama focused on both parties working together in order to achieve American prosperity. Instead of commenting on politically-dividing topics, the president honed in on why and how the government can work together in order to produce the most efficient outcome for America.

So what now? Will our government officials happily work together and pass every piece of legislation that the country needs? The answer is obviously no. The president made it extremely clear in his speech that we won’t always agree on everything, and that’s fine. In fact, it’s this disagreement that allows America to be the greatest country on Earth. What we must understand is that just because we may not politically agree with each other on certain topics, we must still work together in a civil way in order to accomplish greatness. As the president appropriately said in his State of the Union address, “We will move forward together, or not at all.”

In order to secure the future of this amazing country, we must be willing to reach across the table. Only then will we together, as one people, be able to give our children a better world than the one we were given.

Patrick Maillet is an LSA freshman.

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