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You can learn a lot

Stop the Presses column by Chris Graham

I used to hate Newt Gingrich.

I’m still not that big a fan. But you know what? I met him once, actually last year, as it turned out on the day of the Virginia Tech shootings, when he happened to have a speech scheduled up the road at James Madison University, and after talking with him for a few minutes, I decided that I like the guy.

I admittedly braced myself before coming to that conclusion when I asked him a question about the tragedies of that day for an answer blaming liberals for making what had happened happen.

But what I had expected to hear never came.

Now, I’m not saying all this to begin a column about Newt Gingrich necessarily. He’s a nice enough guy and all, don’t get me wrong.

What I’m trying to say is that if I could boil that which I’ve learned in my years covering government and politics down to a single essence of some sort …

Ahem. You end up being surprised at who you like and who you don’t.

And you also end up being surprised at how you don’t really end up hating anybody.

Of course, I’m saying this knowing full well that most people don’t have the fortune of getting the kind of access to local, state and national leaders that I have had the past dozen or so years.

Most of you reading this are lucky to be able to shake hands with a congressman or senator or governor once in your lives, if you even cared to, I should hasten to point out.

You have your views – you’re a committed conservative, a loquacious liberal, a middle-of-the-road moderate – and you stick to them. And those who disagree be damned.

I’m right there with you – or rather, I was.

And then I got out and met some folks with whom I had thought at the outset of this foray of mine into politics journalism I would never be able to see eye-to-eye with.

I more than learned something from them. I learned something from myself.

It doesn’t have to be about being right. It should be about getting it right. And the more you know, the more you know that you need to know more.

I’m sounding like Yoda here. My point is, seek out opinions from those who you think disagree with you, from those that you just know you would never be able to come to a consensus with. Ask them why they think the way they do, why they act the way they act.

Funny thing is, they’ll almost always tell you, and then return the favor.

Another funny thing – in the end, you’ll leave thinking that you were right in the first place, but after giving things time to sink in, you’ll start seeing that the other side might not be as wrong as you had originally thought.

And I guarantee you that over time you’ll at least give your own positions some more thought.

I know that I have.

Anybody who’s seen my white Geo Metro driving around the Valley and Central Virginia has seen the distinctive Newt-Free Zone bumper sticker that dates to the 1995 budget shutdown that the former House speaker engineered to the dissatisfaction of me and millions of others.

It’s there now as an excuse for me to tell this story over and over and over and …


Chris Graham is the executive editor of The New Dominion.

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