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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

Senators Young, Coons talk bipartisanship for Notre Dame Forum

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October 27, 2023: As part of the 2023-24 Notre Dame Forum on “The Future of Democracy,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., moderates a conversation between U.S. Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Todd Young of Indiana. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Notre Dame hosted two United States senators from opposing parties this Friday for a discussion with University President Fr. John Jenkins. Over the span of an hour, Delaware Democrat Chris Coons and Indiana Republican Todd Young talked about the importance of bipartisanship in the midst of government turmoil.

“It’s pretty darn bad,” Coons said when asked about the state of Congress. “The dysfunction and disconnection in the house is gravely concerning.”

A former lawyer, Coons has been serving in the senate since 2010. He has a son who attended Notre Dame, giving him a personal connection to the school and a reason to come speak in South Bend.

Young, also an attorney, became a senator in 2017.

The conversation began with both elected officials expressing their concerns about the state of the government. But they also pointed to their friendship as evidence that party lines can and are being overcome.

“There are ways to make Congress work, to make this government work,” Young said. “We are always searching for areas of agreement and that only occurs through candid conversation.”

After realizing the other shared an interest in Artificial Intelligence for example, the two ended up deciding to tackle the rising need for AI regulation. While AI has several advantages, Young discussed some of the concerns that have inspired him to work with members from the Democratic Party.

“Among the risks associated with this technology is the democratization of the ability to produce biological products to make super bugs potentially that would be a negative use of this technology,” Young said. “How do you mitigate that? There are some ways. That’s what senator Schumer and I and a couple of my other colleagues are intently focused on.”

Senator Coons also discussed his recent bipartisan work. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Coons and members of the committee from both parties visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel in the midst of violent overseas conflicts developing.

“[The trip] was reassuring to me for us to be in three capitals in the middle of a very difficult moment, speaking with one voice about America’s principles and our place in the world, reinforcing messages delivered by our president and our ambassadors,” Coons said. “I’m optimistic that we are now going to take up and pass robust funding for Israel, for Ukraine and for humanitarian relief.”

To close out the conversation, each speaker gave some final words on the state of America and thoughts on some of the things negatively affecting American culture.

Coons finished with a warning about the dangers of the media, adding that things are usually better than the news portrays.

“More and more our news is considered entertainment,” Coons said. “They’re fishing for clicks and eyeballs rather than for substance and engagement.”

For his final words of the talk, Young criticized the divisiveness of social media. Connecting the issue to the divide between people in this country, Senator Young asked people to put their phones down.

“Only by reengaging with each other as people can we get out of the rabbit hole our politics has been pulled into,” Young said.

The event was put together as a part of the 2023-2024 Notre Dame Forum, focusing on “the future of democracy.”