John Inazu and Rob Vischer.
Author John Inazu (l) and President Rob Vischer discuss civil discourse. (Manuela Hill-Muñoz/University of St. Thomas)

Vischer and Inazu Discuss Civil Discourse

President Robert Vischer of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and author John Inazu recently discussed Inazu’s new book, Learning to Disagree, as part of the university’s Reduce the Rancor initiative. This project aims to promote civility and reduce political polarization.

Inazu, a constitutional lawyer and professor at Washington University in St. Louis, has conducted extensive research on the First Amendment. He is also the founder of The Carver Project and the Legal Vocation Fellowship, as well as a senior fellow with the Trinity Forum and Interfaith America.

“The pandemic’s peak, coupled with the online furor over COVID policies, prompted me to reevaluate my teaching and writing,” Inazu said, explaining his motivation for writing the book.

During the discussion, Inazu emphasized the importance of empathy, comfort in uncomfortable conversations, and the development of meaningful relationships to foster constructive disagreements.

“Courage to speak up and having friends who will honestly reflect who you are is essential,” he noted.

Inazu also shared insights on how his background as Japanese American and a Christian shapes his perspective on dialogue and disagreement. His storytelling, enriched by his lived experiences, underscores the importance of recognizing and embracing diverse viewpoints.

Inazu highlighted the significance of understanding and building relationships to enhance dialogue. He described forgiveness as a “transcending thought” that should accompany empathy in all interactions. Further, he discussed the importance of viewing others as individuals, not just issues, and understanding one’s role within any institution to navigate disagreements effectively.

The event concluded with a vibrant Q&A focused on empathy, comfort, and fostering hope and optimism as foundational elements for meaningful discussions.

The Reduce the Rancor series continues April 30 with the Depolarizing Ourselves workshop.