As part of a Cornell Institute of Politics and Global Affairs webinar in March 2021, former President Bill Clinton spoke about the state of democracy, noting that the U.S. was at a “fairly perilous point in our democratic journey—we’re in a dogfight.”
“We’ve always been divided, and we’ll always have differences of opinion,” Clinton said. “But we need to find a way to get enough of each other together to work together.”
The event—at which Clinton took questions submitted by an online audience and stayed on to hear a panel of Cornell faculty experts discuss the challenges of inclusive politics—was part of the institute’s ambitious first two years of programming.
Launched in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the institute (known as IOPGA for short) aims to help develop and nurture the next generation of public servants. It offers programs—which are free and open to all—that delve deeply into complex issues and events, stress bipartisanship, and raise understanding of domestic and international affairs.
In addition to supporting an undergraduate scholars program, it has hosted dozens of discussions with current and former politicians and policymakers and brought Congresspeople from both sides of the aisle together to work on crisis simulations and cybersecurity.
“Our sweet spot is giving members of Congress, policymakers, and the Cornell community an opportunity to deepen discourse, raise understanding, and find common ground in an exceedingly polarized and tribalized environment,” says IOPGA’s director, Steve Israel, who served as a Democratic U.S. Representative from New York from 2001–17 and calls the institute “an oasis of bipartisanship and common ground.”