Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, who have joined forces in the past to head disaster relief efforts, are uniting again as honorary chairmen of a new National Institute for Civil Discourse.
Formation of the institute, intended to promote compromise among opposing political parties and views, is being announced Monday in Tucson, Ariz., site of a shooting rampage last month that killed six people and wounded 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The new organization's director, Brint Milward, told the New York Times
that the institute will focus on political disagreements "from the grassroots all the way to the top. In a great democracy, it's important for people to hold fast to principles, but at the same time to understand where they might be able to compromise."
Milward is head of School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona's flagship campus in Tucson, where the institute will be based.
Fred DuVal, vice chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents and former co-chairman of Giffords' finance committee, is the driving force behind initiative and has raised more than $1 million thus far in private donations to fund it. He said he was inspired by President Obama's comments at a memorial service for the shooting victims, held in January at the University of Arizona, the Washington Post
"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do," Obama said in his speech, "it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."
Besides the two former presidents, other honorary chairmen of the institute are former senator and Democratic majority leader Tom Daschle and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Board members include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona; Ronald Reagan adviser Ken Duberstein; Fox News host Greta Van Susteren; and Trey Grayson, head of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.