When former Vermont Governor Howard Dean addressed Eastern on March 29, he talked about common ground.
The former Presidential candidate and current chairman of the Democratic National Committee spoke about how Democrats may have more in common with the Christian community than meets the eye.
His speech at Eastern came as a part of his new faith-based initiative, “Faith in Action,” which has been trying to bridge the gap between politicians on the left and those in the church. Historically, the two sides have clashed, and Dean hopes to dispel some of the bad feelings engendered by this clash by merely showing up.
Show up he did, and he was kind enough to spend a few moments with the Waltonian prior to taking the stage to address the crowd.
“Our goals are to break barriers between people of faith and Democrats or those who vote Democrat,” Dean said in the interview. He went on to speak of the misunderstandings that usually occur between these two groups.
Dean also discussed why he chose Eastern as his platform for this particular speech.
“I was drawn to Eastern by Tony Campolo, who I have an enormous admiration for,” he said. “I admire what he has done for young people of the faith community.”
Following a great introduction from President David Black and SGA President Jared Bass, Dean addressed the crowd in the gym.
Dean told a very poignant story about how he, members of the DNC and members of the Southern Baptist Convention teamed up to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It seemed an unlikely alliance, but Dean was surprised by the outcome.
“We realized that we’re really not very different at all. We both came here to help people,” Dean said.
This was the heart of Dean’s speech. Democrats and Christians are more alike than one would imagine.
“We have similar core values,” he said, “and we must stop talking past each other and work to find a common goal.”
“The basic tenets of our beliefs revolve around the idea that all life has value or worth,” Dean said. “This is shared by people in all religions and even those people with no religion.”
Dean spoke of the recent polarization that has occurred on both sides, especially those in politics who are looking to gain votes.
Dean also stressed the importance of the Democratic Party’s willingness to go out and talk to people of faith. Dialogue and interaction can go a long way, even in those states that most likely will not vote Democrat, according to Dean.
“Faith should not be used to divide people,” he said.