July 20, 2017

Every Voice Deserves To Be Heard

by Jacquelyn Kelley ’17

“She persisted,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—and she had every right to persist.

On Feb. 7, Warren took the Senate floor to contest Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General, citing a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986. King’s letter was critical of Sessions, ultimately deeming him unfit to serve as a federal judge, the position he was nominated for at the time. Warren, therefore, found the letter relevant for current consideration as Sessions seeks a new office.

Warren read King’s words, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge,” but McConnell swiftly prevented her from reading any more.

McConnell accused Warren of violating Senate Rule 19, which prevents senators from challenging the reputations of fellow senators while debating on the floor. However, this outdated rule is seldom enforced, raising questions as to why it was invoked when Warren presented a historical document to further inform the ongoing debate about Sessions’ nomination.

McConnell defends his decision. “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” he said. Now, she is banned from contributing further to the debate. To put it simply, she has been shushed.

There is perhaps nothing more frustrating, especially at this moment in our country’s history, than having our voices go unheard. No matter our political affiliations, it is deeply disappointing when people refuse to listen to us. Ignoring the thoughts and opinions presented by others is detrimental to the health of our society and democracy.

Conflicts cannot be mediated successfully unless both parties involved feel as if they have been heard. If one refuses to listen to the other, there will be no progress toward a resolution. It is therefore incredibly important when engaging in any kind of dispute, but especially when participating in political debates, to actively listen to the opposition.

That is exactly what American citizens must do in their own daily lives if they are ever going to overcome the divisions among their family members, friends, and co-workers who have opposing political views. We must listen to one another. No matter how much we may disagree with one another, we must hear each other out. We each have a right to be heard, just as Warren does.

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