Gulf Coast Community Foundation Speaker Discusses Civility in Divisive Times

Professor and author Noah Feldman's most important message? 'It’s going to be all right.'

By Susan Burns February 23, 2018

Noah feldman e0njel

Noah Feldman

Harvard Law professor and author Noah Feldman was the main attraction at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s 15th Better Together luncheon, held at The Ritz-Carlton on Friday. His most important message for the audience in these divisive times? “It’s going to be all right.”

Feldman teaches constitutional law and has written eight books, including 2017’s The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President. So it was no surprise that he reached back into history to remind us that the United States faced vicious partisan divides before our current era. Slavery and the Civil War, of course, were the ultimate divide.

But Feldman reached back further. Our founding fathers fought, and many of them became bitter enemies, as they met to create and ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787. The battle over the balance of the central government and states’ rights was key and played out in The Federalist Papers, authored by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Madison, only in his late 30s then, “believed that people with different interests would have to deal with everyone to make common ground,” said Feldman. In the end, he said, it was the “technological magic”—the structure of our Constitution—that helped us resolve our differences.

“You need both Houses and the president to agree,” he said. “Our Constitution was designed precisely to push away from partisanship and work together.”

Working together requires compromise and civility, Feldman said. “Our technology forces us back to the middle and civility lubricates the machine,” he said. “When we hit a patch of deep division, we’ve managed to stitch back the fabric of our nation.”

Feldman was optimistic that the nation would pull together again, even in this moment of partisan divide. “It’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen in the foreseeable future. It’s going to be all right.”

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