Crossing the blue-red divide

June 03, 2013 | Jim Stewart

Room mates
Room mates
Room mates

President Obama and Mitt Romney could probably learn something from these guys. Better yet, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid. Even John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi — although given their genders (and Furman’s housing rules), that might be a stretch in this case.

Still, if 2013 Furman graduates Thomas Hydrick, executive director of College Republicans, and Ben Saul, president of College Democrats, can become friends and roommates, maybe — just maybe — there’s hope for the gridlock, hostility and inter-party bickering that mars today’s political landscape from the South Carolina state house to Washington, D.C. Can’t we all just get along? Two Phi Beta Kappa Furman gentlemen from the Palmetto State have shown it can be done.

In past years on campus, relationships between groups of opposite political persuasions had not always been particularly cordial. Saul noticed the tension as early as his freshman year, and has been praised for his efforts to bring groups together to co-sponsor events that promote an exchange of ideas. Since 2011, the College Democrats and College Republicans have joined to organize programs and panel discussions concerning issues such as the federal budget, school safety, and U.S.-Mexico relations, which featured former Mexican president Vicente Fox.

And whether they’ve meant to or not, through their bipartisan example Hydrick and Saul have served as models for everyone on campus.

Although they won’t have each other to banter with next year, they’re ready for the next steps in their lives. Hydrick, a history and political science major from Columbia, plans to pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in historical studies at England’s Cambridge University, then enroll at Vanderbilt University Law School. Saul, a Greenwood resident focused on poverty studies, is spending the summer working for the Office of Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. In the fall he’ll be a graduate fellow with Furman’s Richard W. Riley Institute, working at Scott’s Branch High School in rural Summerton, S.C., part of the state’s “Corridor of Shame.” He plans to attend graduate school and become an educator.