Tara Nieuwesteeg | July 8, 2018
They’ve come from some of the best universities in the United States and gathered here, in the ornate ballroom of Dallas’ Hall of State, to spend a beautiful spring weekend discussing their budding political movement. Picture three dozen ambitious college students, a mix of liberals and conservatives, all clad in suits and dresses, representing the likes of Duke and Notre Dame and the University of California, Berkeley. Looking across the room, it’s not difficult to imagine the future leaders of our country: politicians, diplomats, titans of industry.
They take turns speaking into the microphone, their ideas and opinions echoing through the expansive art deco building. Incorporating impressive vocabularies that could double as SAT prep guides, the students discuss everything from the potential follies of identity politics to the threats posed by neo-Nazis. They talk about how schools should respond to sexual assault allegations, the boundaries of free speech and the use of the N-word on campus.
In the middle of the room is Rogé Karma ’18, a charismatic 22-year-old from southern California. He intervenes periodically to focus the conversation, making thoughtful points that have many in the group nodding in agreement. Sometimes he just pops in with a snappy quip to lighten the mood.
Karma is a natural speaker, at ease in front of a crowd, and today he’s a bit giddy. This is the inaugural Bridge Summit, a three-day gathering designed to bring together students from BridgeUSA chapters across the country. Attendees will have the opportunity for a group conversation with former CIA operations officer and 2016 independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin. They’ll also hear from Ohio Gov. John Kasich. But they’ll spend the majority of their time talking to each other and proposing solutions to problems.
Karma conceived BridgeUSA as a response to America’s widening political divide. He envisioned it as more than a college club, as something that could morph into a grassroots movement and help unite the country through respectful discourse and open-mindedness. The goal was simple: Get people to talk to each other. Especially people who disagree, or who come from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
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