The Miller Center held a superb three-day “Presidential Ideas Festival” at UVA last month. It focused on the challenges our presidents face, how the constitution shapes the presidency, and the responsibility of the public for ensuring our democracy continues to function as an example to the world.

There were two dozen panel discussions that explored different dimensions of the challenge. The conference brought together more than 80 people from many walks of life who were knowledgeable about our democracy and how it works and are committed to making it better. They had worked in or studied the five prior administrations. Many were high-ranking appointees.

It was a delight to hear Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, women and men and people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds discuss how we can form “a more perfect union” for all.

No person ever turned to another during a discussion and said they were “evil” or “the enemy” or “stupid” or “corrupt!” They might not have agreed with every point made by a fellow panelist but built on the ideas of others to suggest creative solutions. Most of them expressed great concern about the divisiveness in our current political conversations. We need similar bipartisan approaches from ourselves, our candidates for local elections for school boards, to boards of supervisors, to state representatives, to national elections.

It is disappointing that some in Greene don’t seem to want to take a similar approach to solving problems and creating a better community, state and nation. Rather than seeking unity in the constitutional pledge to create a “more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare” they seem to strive for disunity, undermining justice, and fostering hatred and contempt. Sad!

The Miller Center and the university should be congratulated on this enormously important and successful conference. Montpelier, Monticello, Highland and private and corporate sponsors are owed a deep vote of thanks. We can only hope that the positive message of this conference is also heard by those who seek division rather than problem solving.

Don Pamenter


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