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Opening Arguments

Stuck in my ways

Personally, I wouldn't recommend following the first lady's advice:

Reaching across the aisle can be helpful not only in politics but also in the personal growth of recent college graduates, first lady Michelle Obama said in a commencement address at Eastern Kentucky University over the weekend.

“If you’re a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican. And if you’re a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. Maybe you’ll find some common ground; maybe you won’t,” she said to about 600 graduating seniors on Saturday.

“We know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do," she added. "We just get more stuck in our ways, more divided, and it gets harder to come together for a common purpose.”

I use to think like this myself, back before I got, as they say, mugged by reality. Having friends with diverse points of view is a way to have an interesting life full of lively conversations and bursts of creative insight. Blah, blah, blah. But we're so polarized these days that hanging out with your opposites can bring either heated, bitter arguments or long periods of silence when you decide not to talk about those things that divide you -- or both.

It's important to maintain that diversity in my working life -- I make it a point to check out multiple points of view and different perspectives. If nothing else, it's possible to make better arguments when you know the other side's arguments almost as well as they do. And there is always the chance you'll run across something you'd overlooked that will cause you to change your mind.

But I find it more comfortable in my personal life to hang out mostly with people who mostly share my world view -- not exactly, of course, but in the same general vicinity. The discussions can be just as lively -- and even more productive -- when we start from the same general perspective instead of having to work so hard at finding some mythical "common ground" to share. Perhaps too comfortable, I'll concede that point.