Huskers engage in Nebraska Unify Challenge, share experiences

Tuesday, March 29, 2022 Huskers engage in Nebraska Unify Challenge, share experiences

(left to right) Madison Hurst; Ken Bartling; Ivan Molina, Jr.

(left to right) Madison Hurst; Ken Bartling; Ivan Molina, Jr.

Three members of Huskers Vote Coalition recently participated in the Nebraska Unify Challenge - a statewide program that connects pairs of Nebraskans across political, ideological, geographic and other divides for a live, one-to-one video conversation.

Here’s what they had to say about their experiences.

Madison Hurst

As a little bit of background, I was first introduced to the Huskers Vote Coalition through the Residence Hall Association (RHA) in September 2021. For the rest of the fall semester the group of us worked on establishing a foundation that the Coalition could build on over the next couple of years. This semester we are working on expanding our outreach and hosting events or partnering with community organizations to promote their events that align with our mission and goals.

The Unify Challenge was really the first event the Coalition helped promote and participate in. I decided to participate because I thought it was a unique opportunity to talk to someone from the state of Nebraska about our opinions and ideas on certain topics. I was a little hesitant to sign up at first because it can be hard to have productive conversations with people who have differing opinions. When I was waiting for the challenge to start, I was nervous that the person I would be paired with wouldn't be respectful or they wouldn't try to see my perspective and that it would be an overall difficult experience. But when I met the person I was paired with, I felt like they had the same hesitations or worries that I did. We talked through several discussion prompts while simultaneously taking a survey. These topics included healthcare, childcare, affordable housing, immigration, education, and we ended with what the Nebraskan slogan, "The Good Life" means to us.

My partner and I actually did not disagree on any of the umbrella topics, but we shared our different experiences and how those experiences have sort of shaped our beliefs on those topics. Although I think that our different experiences have led us to have similar views on the topics, I think that we still have different approaches to understanding the topics and how they could be improved. I appreciated that my partner truly listened to what I had to say and wanted to engage in meaningful conversation.

I think my main takeaway from the conversation was that we all should take the time to actively listen to each other. I think a lot of the time, especially with political topics, we listen with the intent of reacting in a way we've already decided on. When we listen to each other's experiences/ideas/beliefs with the intent of understanding, we can react with empathy and engage in a conversation that is productive instead of arguing or going around in circles. My partner was older than I was and talking with someone in a different age group was impactful because I don't get the opportunity to do that often. I think it is especially important for my peers to not just talk to each other about these topics, but talk to older people, and talk to people who are different from them to understand their experiences and beliefs.

Before we ended our conversation, my partner asked if the current political climate had changed how I felt about choosing my field of study and potential future career path. I have thought a lot lately about why I decided to study Political Science and if it's something I want to pursue. I believe that my partner and our conversation was a reminder as to why I chose this path. I chose this path because I want to be a part of enacting the change that I want to see. Whether that be locally, statewide, or nationally, I want to listen to people's experiences and create a place that is more united in addressing the problems in our society. I want to participate in and plan more conversations like this one to make more connections and allow other people to make these connections too.

Ken Bartling

My experience with the Unify Challenge was great. I've had the chance to engage in several similar conversations before, but those always typically happen with people across the country or with people just in my hometown. I haven't had the opportunity to reach out to other Nebraskans and get to see what unifies us, and what we can civilly agree to disagree on.

These conversations are critical to a robust and effective democracy. Ideas should be discussed and respectfully challenged, and discourse should be more common. I wasn't nervous as I waited for the zoom to start, because I knew that no matter what, a good thing was going to come out of my conversation.

I think the next step for me is to work alongside Ivan and Madison and see if we can hold a similar event here in Lincoln. A Unify UNL challenge with in-person discussions would be indescribably beneficial to the political climate here in Lincoln, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Ivan Molina, Jr.

I have to say it was a thoroughly interesting experience. My partner was a teacher from a local public school here in Lincoln.

We agreed that even though we shared moderately similar views, it was good to have these conversations as there is often a disconnect between younger and older voters. When it comes to politics, age is very rarely discussed despite it being such an important factor. We agreed on many topics but where we really disagreed was on solutions. We found that much of it revolved around our own resources. While I was in favor of more taxpayer-funded options like Medicare for All, she liked more market-based solutions such as a single-payer system. We explored these topics in depth, closely examining each other's arguments.

While I came into this very unsure of what to expect, I am glad I took advantage of this opportunity. It is very easy to stay in our own bubble of opinions and beliefs even among people who are alike. After meeting with my partner, I feel like I have a more refreshed mindset. Something to build on rather than go over the same details in my mind over and over. Going forward, I've promised myself to be a part of more community events like this as well as making this a larger part of what the HVC does as an organization. As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to voting, the HVC has an obligation to promote the sort of conversations I had with my partner and to encourage more students on campus to be a part of the wider community.

Want to be actively engaged in the voting experience?
Being a registered voter is the first step.

Pick up voter registration forms and receive information about the items on the Nebraska Primary Election ballot at the Voter Registration Days from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily April 4–8, 2022 in the Nebraska Union. Student members of the Huskers Vote Coalition will be present to answer questions about the registration process.

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