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Sens. Bennet, Gardner discuss bipartisanship at CSU amid protests

Collegian | Julia Percy
Senator Michael Bennet and former Senator Cory Gardner speak at the Colorado State University event Building Bridges: Bipartisan Perspectives on Democracy, moderated by CSU President Amy Parsons April 22.

In an effort to promote bipartisan cooperation in political discussions, Colorado State University hosted a conversation with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and former Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, moderated by CSU President Amy Parsons, to discuss topics like freedom of speech and political polarization.

The event, held in the Lory Student Center April 22, underscored the significance of bipartisan partnerships and compromise in government and their importance in a functioning democracy like the United States.


As Parsons and the senators kicked off the conversation, the event was interrupted by protesters demanding that Bennet no longer be “complicit in genocide,” as his campaign has received over $100,000 from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an organization known for supporting Israel in the Israel-Hamas war.

“Senator Bennet, how dare you come here to talk about democracy when you ignore our voices?” asked a protester from Jewish Voice for Peace who did not provide a name. “You’re ignoring Jewish voices, millions of voices who are demanding you stop funding Israel. In the name of humanity, stop funding Israel. We have to interrupt genocide when it’s happening in our name.”

Following the individual’s remarks, several others stood and cited their First Amendment right to protest and demanded that their elected officials hear them out.

“I don’t want my tax dollars funding genocide, Senator Bennet,” another protester said.

Following these statements, multiple protesters began chanting, “Ceasefire now,” and were subsequently escorted out of the event.

Acknowledging the protesters, Parsons began the conversation by discussing the importance of the First Amendment, especially when it comes to citizens protesting and voicing their concerns.

“We are a public university,” Parsons said. “We encourage people debating and protesting and being passionate about what they believe in, and this is an example of that.”

CSU aims to promote freedom of speech and democracy as part of the university’s thematic Year of Democracy leading up to the next presidential election.

“If there’s one message that I hope we can take out of today, … it’s when we talk to each other, when we hear each other out, that’s when we can come up with the right solutions and ideas for this country. So thank you for being a part of that solution that I always knew Rams could bring.” -Cory Gardner, former U.S. senator for Colorado

“People are very polarized and very passionate about what’s going on in the country right now, and what we’re trying to do at Colorado State University is cultivate leaders who have their voice and have productive ways of speaking to power,” Parsons said. “We’re really testing the limits of the First Amendment, and that’s what we’re experiencing at Colorado State University as well.”


Bennet discussed the importance of freedom of speech and emphasized the necessity of civil discourse and disagreement among the members of a democracy.

“I believe this country was founded on the idea that we would disagree with each other, and out of these disagreements, we would create more imaginative and more durable solutions than any king or tyrant can come up with on their own,” Bennet said.

In addition to discussing freedom of speech and democracy on U.S. soil, the senators discussed the United States’ involvement in international conflict overseas.

“On Ukraine, I think what you see is the Senate trying to reassert relevance and say we’re not just broken,” Bennet said. “(We need to comprehend) that there are places all over the world that are still looking to the United States for leadership and that what we do actually makes a difference.”

Gardner expressed his agreement as the discussion continued.

At the end of the day, my preference is to make sure that we keep our European allies that we have an oath to defend from engaging in that oath and triggering Article 5,” Gardner said. “We are a nation that can do more than one thing at a time, and if we think we can only focus on one thing at a time, shame on us; we’re belittling our country.”

The senators continued to discuss political polarization in the United States and stressed the importance of getting involved in politics and getting comfortable with disagreements and political dialogue as a way to reduce said polarization.

“You need to have the ability (to) have a concurrence of opinions,” Bennet said. “You need to have the right to change your mind, the right to think differently about things, and I think that’s true about life, and it’s true about politics.”

Bennet said social media platforms such as TikTok are responsible for the amount of political polarization among younger generations in the United States.

“A huge percentage of young people are getting their political information off of TikTok,” Bennet said. “That’s a really bad thing to do for a lot of reasons but not the least of which is Beijing controls that. So look for edited sources of content instead of just stuff on the internet.”

The senators said democracy functions best when people get involved and those from both sides of the aisle work together despite their disagreements.

“If there’s one message that I hope we can take out of today, … it’s when we talk to each other, when we hear each other out, that’s when we can come up with the right solutions and ideas for this country,” Gardner said. “So thank you for being a part of that solution that I always knew Rams could bring.”

Reach Laila Shekarchian at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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    Roger HoffmannApr 23, 2024 at 2:58 pm

    It’s almost funny that Senators Bennet and Gardner talk about “bipartisan partnerships” – and use the war in Ukraine to demonstrate it. Funny if not for the fact that it does illustrate that when it comes to Congress, and the corporate duopoly that it represents, there is nearly total consensus and noticeable lack of interest in any honest inquiry when it comes to supporting imperial wars. This is true whether its in direct invasion (such as in VietNam, or the falsely-premised invasion of Iraq or of Afghanistan), or in attempts at fomenting color revolutions against our chosen bogey-men, or in proxy wars, such as in the case of our provoking of the war in Ukraine in which we’re sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives for the sake of ‘bleeding’ Russia.

    Of course, there is also near-consensus for the continual, unconditional support of genocide by the nearly fascistic Netanyahu government; as demonstrated by the recent House vote for giving another $26 Billion to Israel, some of which will doubtless make its way back to AIPAC where it will be distributed to maintain such support among the corrupted Congress critters.