The first moment that I began to truly understand the power of Bridge was during the first major event we held in the inaugural year of BridgeND. This event was called The Melting Pot, a panel discussion among student leaders of the College Republicans, Democrats, environmental and women’s organizations, and a Right to Life group on immigration, one of the most important and controversial issues of our time.
At the time, Notre Dame had a reputation for being deeply politically apathetic, and as a result big gatherings are usually reserved for sports activities. So, when people started showing up, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.The chairs we had put out were filled ten minutes before the event. So we brought in all the backup chairs the venue had, and all those were filled within five minutes. By the time the event was starting, over 250 students had filed in to the venue, and there was barely any standing room.
While many of these students came for a fiery left-right debate between college Democrats and Republicans what they got were perspectives they had never considered. The environmental group talked about climate change’s impact on migration patterns. The Right to Life group — often considered one of the most convervative groups on campus — talked about the Catholic perspective on human dignity and how it applies to immigration.
After the event, dozens of students flooded the stage to let us know just how unique the event was and ask where they could get more of what they just witnessed. I had previously casted many students (especially ND students) off as “apathetic” and “blindly partisan,” but as I stood there fielding questions about how we could create more spaces like this one, it finally hit me: The desire for something different than politics as usual is far deeper and far wider than I ever could have imagined.
Roge is a Researcher at Vox.com & Co-Founder of BridgeUSA