Peacemakers Through Civic Discourse with Social Studies Expert David Blankenhorn

David Blakenhorn

On Feb. 23, the Southern Virginia University community gathered for an Honors Forum to hear David Blankenhorn, founder and president of Institute for American Values and co-founder of Braver Angels, a grassroots organization that addresses political polarization, speak on being a peacemaker through civic discourse.

”Democracy is government by talk,” Blankenhorn said. “We establish our ways of relating to one another as citizens and the rules that we live under by talking to each other. The alternative to government by talk is government by force.”

Showcasing ways people often respond to political disputes, such as withdrawing from the conversation, internalizing the conflict, or becoming a peacemaker, Blankenhorn proposed that pursuing the path of a peacemaker often produces the best results in political disagreements.

“The peacemaker option that I’m recommending does not mean that you water down your convictions. It doesn’t mean that you stop being passionate about what you need,” Blankenhorn said. “If you want to be an effective advocate for what you believe in, there are ways that are more likely to succeed than others. It’s a dance between peacemaking and confrontation.”

Highlighting the recent counsel given by President Russell M. Nelson and President Dallin H. Oaks to be a peacemaker in a divided world, Blankenhorn shared ideas on how to foster respect and encourage open communication during political discussions.

“It’s not asking everybody to agree about our policies,” said Blankenhorn. “But it’s having that disagreement be productive and healthy rather than toxic and dysfunctional so that it is an expression of your desire to make the world a better place.” 

In response to a student question during the event’s Q&A section, Blankenhorn taught the importance of a peacemaker fostering strength instead of passiveness and developing strong communication skills that establish an environment of trust and care.

“Engagement is what builds trust… and trust is like the loaves and the fishes when Jesus fed the multitude. If you give it away, there is more of it,” Blankenhorn explained. “If I give you my trust, even if I don’t know how you’re going to reciprocate, often trust becomes more abundant in the world.”

Blankenhorn is the co-director of The Marriage Opportunity Council and author of “Fatherless America” and “The Future of Marriage.” Co-founder of Braver Angels, he attended the intercollegiate Braver Angels debate hosted by Southern Virginia University’s Honor Program on Feb. 22.

The event featured a musical performance by the Symphonic Band of “Coming For to Carry Me Home (A Juneteenth Celebration)” arranged by Justin Harden, and ended with the traditional singing of “Love One Another.”