Al Gore, Condoleezza Rice participate in unity initiative

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are participating in a new initiative at Vanderbilt University focused on bridging the partisan divide in the U.S., officials said Tuesday.

The Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy is a virtual conversation series that will be led by Pulitzer Prize–winning presidential biographer Jon Meacham, who is a Vanderbilt faculty member, the school said in a statement.

The first conversation on Thursday will feature Gore speaking about the importance of evidence and reason in political discourse. It will be followed by Rice discussing her experience in getting bipartisan support for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Vanderbilt spent months exploring how higher education could help bridge long-standing partisan divisions. This initiative was developed as a way to insert evidence-based research into the national discourse on unity, the university said.

“At a time of deeply troubling division within our country, universities are uniquely positioned to help unite our country through the advancement of research, scholarship and compelling dialogue,” Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “There is an urgent need to supplant ideologies and inflammatory rhetoric with facts and evidence to advance our democracy and restore legitimacy to the institutions that support it.”

The project aims to have conversations with prominent figures with different views and generate new courses for students and alumni.

“Unity does not mean that we always agree on solutions or that fundamental philosophical differences will not continue to animate passionate Republicans and Democrats. However, we can aspire to a national consensus of a unified and abiding faith in America’s ongoing democratic experiment,” said former Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who is a co-chair of the project.

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