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“Our Chapters are at the core of grassroots strategy to build a program that equips students with the knowledge and ability to improve the political culture in their communities. Click on each icon to learn more about a chapter!”

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““BridgeUSA is an investment in the future of American democracy. We champion ideological diversity, promote a solution-oriented political culture, and teach responsible discourse in order to develop a generation of political leaders that value empathy and constructive engagement.””

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Our movement empowers young people from across the political spectrum to fight for a less polarized democracy that works for everyone.

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#MyBridgeStory – Sam Foer

.ugb-b402c20 > .ugb-inner-block > .ugb-block-content > .ugb-columns__item{grid-template-columns:0.30fr 2.40fr 0.30fr !important} “Upon graduating high school, my enthusiasm for college was noticeably brimming. I was finally going to be surrounded by peers who shared the passion to explore and investigate ideas and issues. The intellectual culture that I was impelled to immerse myself in was finally at my fingertips. But upon arriving at Hampshire College, I soon discovered that my expectation of tolerance for viewpoint diversity and multiple perspectives was no reality, but to my dismay, much the opposite. The culture at Hampshire had solidified a severe form of ideological homogeneity – never good for intellectual hygiene – where it was hard to find anyone with views that deviated substantially from the dominant ideological framework. As the year progressed, it became increasingly hard to find anyone whose views deviated even remotely from specific ideas associated with the dominant ideology. The culture became one of intellectual feedback loops generated by confirmation bias within a bubble setting. Students, through social pressure and environmental conditions, were being molded to conformity. Once agreement became pervasive enough, disagreement became forbidden. I started raising concerns with the state of the culture, and began introducing ideas that were clearly off-limits to hold for the purpose of starting debates and discussion. I craved the intellectual culture that was being suppressed. Instead of open-minded students willing to engage in constructive discussion around legitimate ideas and disagreements, I was smeared with labels denoting my perceived egregiousness, which I embodied simply for questioning the legitimacy of the doctrine and its particular ideas. I soon found out that other students who attempted a similar effort I did underwent the same aspersive attacks. It looked as though nothing could penetrate the walls of the ideological extremism occurring before my eyes. For the sake of my intellectual, mental, and emotional well-being and to act on my inspiration to counter this phenomenon of anti-intellectualism, I transferred to the University of Rhode Island (URI). The summer going into my second year at URI, I interned with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where I learned about First Amendment law in relation to education. I had plans to work with my school’s administration to modify our student handbook to comport with Supreme Court rulings, as it was at the time in violation of the First Amendment. My passion for free expression, however, was only one side of the coin of my concern for the health of our nation’s political and intellectual culture both inside and outside college campuses. I saw that in order to take full advantage of what our First Amendment guarantees us, we must come together to engage critically in thoughtful, constructive discussion surrounding controversial and hot-button issues. We must learn to work together to respect disagreement and grow in awareness of the multiple perspectives that constitute viewpoint diversity and democratic pluralism. My only issue was that I did not have the resources at the time to satisfy the latter side of the coin described above. That was until a FIRE staff member put me in contact with the renowned moral psychologist, Jonathan Haidt. Upon describing my Hampshire experience and my desire to alleviate the polarization our nation is currently undergoing, Jonathan put me in touch with BridgeUSA, and I quickly accepted an invitation to found a chapter of Bridge at URI.  BridgeURI, founded in September 2017, became the sixth official BridgeUSA chapter, and we have been going strong ever since. We host weekly discussions wherein we parse through a topic that our members voted on at the beginning of the week in-depth. Leading BridgeURI has also satisfied my thirst for an intellectual culture at college, and my motivation to disrupt the type of ideological uniformity and closed-mindedness that unfortunately plagued Hampshire, and is casting its devilish effects on the purposes of higher education at other institutions across the country. Multiple BridgeURI members have approached me to share how Bridge has changed their life. They have said that if it weren’t for Bridge, they would have maintained a certain disrespect for people with opposing views, and antagonism towards ideas that deviate from the ones they hold tightly. They express that they have a renewed sense of appreciation for ambiguity and complexity, for entertaining ideas that conflict with their worldview, and that just by surrounding themselves with likable people who have unlike world views, they can generate compassion for such people that they were only previously able to generate for people who shared their opinions. When they tell me this, they seem to inhabit lightheartedness and lightness; you know, what you feel when an oppressive weight has been taken off of your shoulders, and you can relax into an appreciation for the grandness of the universe now that the stress associated with feeling hostile towards the unknown is dispensed. These are the effects of BridgeUSA done right, and I believe that given the proper conditions and resources, we can all have a BridgeUSA type experience reform our approach to political life for the better.” .ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper{background-color:#ffffff !important}.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper:before{background-color:#ffffff !important}.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > h1,.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > h2,.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > h3,.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > h4,.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > h5,.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > h6{color:#222222}.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > p,.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > ol li,.ugb-2773ea2-column-wrapper > * > ul li{color:#222222}
18
Mar

#MyBridgeStory – Jessica Carpenter

#MyBridgeStory – Jessica Carpenter

I was never interested in politics growing up. I went out of my way to ignore them and convinced myself it was a boring conversation that should be left to older people. In high school I started to pay attention more, but a conversation never really started because none of my friends knew how to discuss politics with me. I was their go-to for insight, so my bits of knowledge were the best we got – and it wasn’t much.  I was first eligible to vote during the 2016 election. I remember how disappointing it was that these were the two candidates I had to choose from. The entire thing seemed like a joke. Half the time I was wondering if it were possible to call someone at the White House and ask for a redo. (It’s not). I didn’t see knowledgeable politicians on the stage, I saw people talking about why their opponent was the worse choice. All the candidates I deemed “good” were out of the race within months because they weren’t bringing what the public wanted: a show. What’s worse than two inadequate show-runners? The establishment of the inability to have a conversation. People now refused to talk, listen to, or have any sort of relation with a person from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Any kind of improvement is now put on the back-burner because both sides are determined to not let the other have small victories. No one wants to hear that the other side might have something of value to say. We lost what politics should be about: the betterment of the country and the people in it. Joining BridgeUSA taught me how to have that necessary conversation in a politically divided world. I’ve been introduced to differing opinions and learned where I stand on certain issues while being respectful of why someone else feels differently. I learned that there are more ways to solve a problem than the Democratic way or the Republican way, and I also learned that my generation seemed a lot more capable of working together on those issues than our predecessors who now segregated themselves between left and right. I’m proud to be a part of something that is moving to change this, especially sprouting from the foundation of college campuses. The prospects that range across the country show that it’s possible to have that conversation again. The problems we face aren’t just Republican or Democratic problems but our problems as a whole, and it’s possible to come to a mutual conclusion even if the starting points are different. Knowing that puts a new kind of excitement into politics for me. The excitement that includes real possibility and potential. We just have to start the conversation.
18
Mar

#MyBridgeStory – David Reuter

#MyBridgeStory – David Reuter

Born as son of East-German and Chinese immigrants, I heard firsthand about the boundaries that communist regimes placed on their lives – being forced into an occupation, being unable to voice their opinions without being incarcerated, and constantly dreaming about what is behind the “Iron Curtain”. It taught me that many things we take for granted today – freedom of speech, fair trials, and democracy itself – are recent achievements that have long been fought for. We are in charge of ensuring they continue to flourish. When I first came to UC Berkeley in 2017, I entered a deeply polarized campus environment, where many felt like they couldn’t voice their true opinions, fearing they would be labeled either as a “communist” or “conservative”. Yet at the same time, I was fascinated by the insatiable desire for betterment of the status quo and the can-do attitude of the Americans around me. And this is why I love being a part of BridgeUSA – a community of bright students who strive to tackle polarization and move the world forward. The developments we see in the political space are phenomena not only prevalent in the US but all over the world. This is why I have devoted the past one and a half years to exporting BridgeUSA’s ideas and attitude to the rest of the world. We need to realize once again that freedom of speech and openness to other ideas are prerequisites for democracy to work, and for bringing the world and its people closer together. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together over the next few years.