A shared meal led to shared conversations about politics and democracy for Florida State University students, faculty and staff who joined in The Longest Table, an annual event that engages participants across differences to inspire unity on campus.
The theme for this year’s event, which is hosted by FSU student organization Power of WE and the Division of Student Affairs, was “Democracy Over Dinner: The 2024 Election and Beyond.” Participants met over dinner at the Student Union Green and discussed next year’s presidential election and how to approach these topics with family and friends.
“This year’s event, similar to past events, really focuses on providing the campus community with the tools and space needed to engage in meaningful dialogue on issues that can be difficult to address,” said Sierra R. Turner, program director for the Office of Student Agencies and Institutes and adviser of Power of WE. “Engaging students, faculty, staff, and community members in this type of dialogue was not only the focus of this year’s event but is the core of the amazing work done by Power of WE.
The Power of WE is a student-led initiative that aims to decrease polarization on FSU’s campus and unite students. Inspired by the City of Tallahassee and Village Square, the Power of WE adopted its Longest Table initiative in 2016 so that FSU students could share food and knowledge.
“It’s based on a very simple principle that convening as a community and breaking bread can help us to improve our community,” said Delaney Williams, student director for Power of WE. “We want people to disagree and try to work toward common ground.”
To begin these conversations and to create cohesive topics, the discussion questions were formed using research-oriented strategies based on participants’ political leanings.
Ted Ellis, director of the Civil Rights Institute at FSU, delivered the event’s keynote address where he highlighted the importance of democracy to American society and what people can do to ensure it lives on. Ellis is a historian and a painter whose portraits of civil rights icons, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, have been showcased in the halls of Congress.
“Emphasizing the significance of voting rights is paramount in our commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable society,” Ellis said. “Together, let’s celebrate the power of civic engagement and the vital role it plays in shaping our collective future.”
Marketing and psychology major Sage Hall spoke about what she hoped to achieve at the event.
“I hope to learn about everyone’s different political opinions,” Hall said. “Maybe I can be a little more enlightened and change my views if I think my peers’ ideas are more substantial.”
While some participants found common ground on issues, one student said the event was refreshing and without bias or influence.
“It helps that I don’t know the political opinions of people around me,” said Emma Barrett, a third-year political science and international affairs student. “I think I was much more likely to listen to others’ thoughts at this event with an open mind rather than immediately put them in a box.”
The Power of WE strives to make its mark on campus through recurring events where students are encouraged to share and embrace their different ideologies through lively discussions.
For more information, visit powerofwe.fsu.edu.