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Governor Cox discusses free speech, Israel-Hamas conflict, and immigration on ‘Face the Nation’ interview

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis had a chance Sunday to show how their “Disagree Better” initiative works with one of the thorniest issues in public policy — the conflict in the Middle East.

Cox and Polis were on “Face the Nation,” and host Margaret Brennan pressed Cox on a statement he made about free speech on college campuses.

“I know you told state colleges in Utah to remain neutral and stop commenting on current events,” Brennan said to Cox. “You said, ‘I don’t care what your position is on Israel and Palestine. I don’t care what your position is on Roe v. Wade. We don’t need our institutions to take a position on those things.’ That just sounds like agreeing not to disagree at all.”

But Cox said it was the “exact opposite,” and that he wants more students to engage in discussion on difficult issues on campus.

“(Colleges) come out with very strong statements that are very political statements and end up silencing dissent or disagreement on campuses,” he said. “We want campuses to be a place of robust discussion.”

Polis said the primary responsibility of colleges on the Israel-Palestine issue — or any issue — is keeping students safe to allow for conversation to happen.

Cox agreed with Polis and said university presidents were “eager” to speak out on issues “as long as they were leaning one political direction.”

“But then as soon as Israel and Hamas happens, there was silence across campuses, because, well, if we speak out in support of Israel, then we might offend, you know, a very vocal part of our campuses,” said Cox. “That’s embarrassing, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s better that the institutions themselves stay neutral on it.”

Brennan followed up by bringing up Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to ban the group Students for Justice in Palestine on public college campuses in Florida, which led to a lawsuit by the ACLU.

Instead of responding directly, Polis took the chance to pivot back to his and Cox’s “Disagree Better” initiative.

“So, Margaret, thank you by the way for drilling down on one of the most divisive topics we face today, because if we can disagree better about Israel and Palestine, we can disagree better about everything,” he said.

“Part of what the goal is, is to get people to stop shouting at one another, whatever the issue is, whether it’s abortion, whether it’s Israel, Palestine, whether it’s the border and immigration — stop shouting, start talking and listening,” said Polis.

‘It’s not a flashy wall’

On immigration, Brennan pointed out that Polis has sent migrants from Colorado to other states. “How is that different from what Gov. (Greg) Abbott was doing in Texas and how do you get along better with your fellow governors on this one?” she asked.

Polis said he thinks Republicans and Democrats want better security at the border.

“Now, the flip side is, it’s not easy. It’s not a soundbite. It’s not a flashy wall. It’s a thoughtful, high tech approach to border security, asylum reforms and immigration reform generally,” he said.

He pointed out the National Governors Association has launched an immigration task force, bringing together governors from red states and blue states to try to find common ground on the issue that they can then bring to Congress.

Cox pointed out immigration was another “perfect example” of how people can “disagree better” on a divisive issue.

“We put Republicans and Democrats in a room together and we start hashing it out. This is not about agreeing on everything. It’s not about being nicer to each other, although we certainly need that. It really is about disagreeing in productive ways and finding common ground,” he said.

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Building Bridges Through Disagreement

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis are leading the way in promoting constructive dialogue and disagreement through their “Disagree Better” initiative. Their recent appearance on “Face the Nation” showcased their commitment to fostering healthy debate, even on the most contentious issues.

Encouraging Robust Discussion

Both governors emphasized the importance of creating an environment for robust discussion on college campuses. They highlighted the need for students to engage in difficult conversations and expressed concern over institutions silencing dissent or disagreement.

Seeking Common Ground

While addressing the Israel-Palestine conflict and immigration, Cox and Polis emphasized the need to find common ground and move away from divisive rhetoric. They stressed the importance of productive disagreement and the value of listening and understanding differing perspectives.

Looking Towards the Future

As they continue to champion the “Disagree Better” initiative, Cox and Polis are committed to bridging the gap between opposing viewpoints and fostering a culture of respectful disagreement. Their efforts serve as a model for constructive dialogue in an increasingly polarized society.

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