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Columnists Cal Thomas, Bob Beckel engage in healthy debate

April 04, 2011  |  Allison Cundiff/Liberty University News Service

Bob Beckel, left, and Cal Thomas, 'Common Ground' columnists, squared off at Monday's convocation.

Students at Liberty University’s Monday convocation heard from both sides of the political spectrum as Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, both columnists and FOX News political analysts, took turns addressing students about the importance of civility in politics.

Cal Thomas meets students after convocation.

“They’re here today to do something unique,” said Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. as he introduced the two speakers. “Bob’s a liberal, Cal’s a conservative … they look for common ground between conservatives and liberals. On some issues there is no common ground, but on as many issues as possible they try ... my dad always said that you can disagree with somebody without being disagreeable, and I think that’s what we as Christians need to learn. I think that’s what Cal and Bob have done so effectively here.”

Thomas and Beckel have been friends for years and started their bi-weekly USA Today column “Common Ground” as a venue for liberals and conservatives to negotiate on issues consistent with their beliefs and come to agreements in order to move laws forward and promote the general welfare of Americans. The column inspired their book by the same name.

On Monday, they spoke about how damaging it can be to have polarization of political opinions and to think of members of the opposite political party as “the other side.”

Bob Beckel answers students' questions after convocation.

“We don’t believe that there has to be an impossible divide … you can disagree, but you can do so agreeably and that’s what we feel very strongly about,” Beckel said. “We are here because we think that all of you are tired of politics by now, I’m sure, and we are, too – it’s politics as usual, it’s got to change and we believe it will change.”

Some issues they agree on are entitlement reform and military budget reform, federal budget cuts, alternative energy, and term limits for politicians.

“I think it’s good for people to see, especially at a conservative university, a liberal democrat and a conservative who are really friends, who care for each other, who are brothers in Christ, and who really do love the country,” Thomas said after convocation. “I think it’s important that we don’t see policy differences as a barometer of who loves the country more or less. ... I think there’s too much of that, I think that is divisive and it’s harmful.”

Thomas is among America’s top nationally syndicated columnists whose work appears in more than 500 newspapers nationwide. He is the author of more than 10 books and has been a syndicated commentator with FOX News since 1997.

Beckel began working for the United States government in 1977 and was the deputy assistant to the Secretary of State during in the President Jimmy Carter administration. He also managed Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign. He is currently a professor of politics at George Washington University’s graduate school.

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