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Announcing the Civility Leadership Institute

In 2021, we live in one of the most polarized times in American history since the Civil War. Divisions are everywhere, as families, communities, and even our societal framework, resting on our American values of trust and civility, are being torn in two. The partisan gridlock, divisive rhetoric, the rapid spread of disinformation, and sensationalist media have fueled the flames of polarization, separating us as Americans. Renew America Together’s mission has always been to unite Americans and promote civil leadership and bipartisan cooperation to heal our society from these deep partisan wounds. To further commit our efforts towards our mission, we are launching a new initiative to combat polarization, called the Civility Leadership Institute (CLI).

Under this new initiative, the Civility Leadership Institute will be accepting applications from politicians, business leaders, policy experts, community leaders, law enforcement, and students to become CLI participants. Participants will meet once a month virtually for six months. Each month they will work through an exciting curriculum, hear from dynamic nationally recognized speakers, and strengthen their relationships with each other. CLI graduates will receive professional certifications in VitalSmarts™ Crucial Conversations and TypeCoach Influence training and participate in a year-long follow-up program to continue building relationships with one another, measure their progress and accomplishments, and receive professional coaching from industry leaders.

Using this new set of skills, CLI graduates will help us fight against polarization and division as we train leaders to move America forward on the right path. We hope that you or someone you know will consider applying to this opportunity to strengthen leadership and communication skills so that we can Renew America Together.

To apply, please visit renewamericatogether.org/CLI and submit the application form. Feel free to suggest this opportunity to others that may be interested.

Clean Nuclear Energy & the Environment: A Discussion with Congressman Bob Inglis

Recently, the French government and a multinational coalition announced the groundbreaking of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), an experimental nuclear fusion power plant that could provide clean energy to all of Europe in the next five years. While nuclear fusion has long been theorized as a safe, clean energy source, no country has successfully created a nuclear fusion power plant. If successful, ITER could be the first large-scale nuclear fusion reactor in the world.

In response to this potentially massive leap for clean energy and the environment, Renew America Together asked Congressman Bob Inglis, founder and Executive Director of conservative environmental group republicEn.org, about his thoughts on nuclear fusion and the polarization of climate change in the United States. Congressman Inglis is the newest featured speaker at Renew America Together and is a Republican leading the fight against climate change.

The UK government invested £200 million into nuclear fusion last year. The French government and a coalition of other countries announced the creation of the ITER nuclear fusion reactor this year. What are the major obstacles to the US government investing in nuclear fusion?

Vision is the major obstacle. Fusion power in this century is about as audacious as the moon shot was in the last century. In his speech at Rice University in September 1962, President Kennedy admitted that some of the materials needed for the spacecraft hadn’t been invented yet. No matter; we were going to the moon. The means of containing and harnessing a fusion reaction are every bit as visionary. So the question is, do we have another moon shot in us? Can we say with President Kennedy: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

What would it mean for Americans if the construction of the ITER nuclear fusion reactor in France is successful?

It would serve as a kick in the pants. It would remind us that France has pursued nuclear power in a way that we should have. It would tell us to dream bigger, to work harder, to invest more wisely and to believe that it really is possible to produce emissionless power.

With the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the failure of the Kyoto Agreement, do you believe that the United States can still garner support for a multinational coalition of countries to combat climate change?

Our slated departure from the Paris Agreement signals an abdication of leadership by the United States. If we are to reclaim our role as the leader of the free world, we need to reverse that withdrawal and reengage. Restating our commitment to a “will” to solve climate change would make us credible in asking other countries to join us in charting a “way” to that goal. Absent that reengagement with the Paris Agreement–an agreement that was so difficult to negotiate–how could we be credible in addressing the even harder work of finding a “way.”

How do politicians get Americans to support multinational collaboration in furthering technological advancement in potential clean energy sources?

Our political leaders should be telling us that we are great, not that we were great. Let us not be called back to some good old days that never existed, but challenged to rise to the even better days ahead. After all, when leaders are optimistic, they’re saying they believe in the people they represent. That kind of leadership would give us confidence to engage, to collaborate, to lead. It’s insecurity and a sense of having little to offer that causes withdrawal.

Where can Republicans and Democrats collaborate on environmental issues?

Conservatives are coming around on climate. As they make that turn, it’s vital for progressives to welcome them to the climate conversation without recrimination. While professional partisans will find it difficult to drop a very effective political wedge, I’m confident that many progressives will welcome their conservative neighbors to the climate conversation–in full recognition of the fact that we are literally all in this together.

Renew America Together works to combat the polarization of our society and find common ground as Americans. Why do you believe climate change is such a polarizing issue in the United States?

Climate action became polarized because some vested interests used the dislocation of the Great Recession to brand it as a left-wing cause so as to maintain their ability to socialize their soot and their CO2. Meanwhile, some on the left were glad to be handed that wedge and to sink it deep. The result is that climate action became culturally marked as a cause of the left. That marking can be undone if: (a) conservatives reassert themselves as conservationists, shedding the doctrines of populist grievance that have infected the GOP of late; and (b) partisan progressives drop that climate wedge that’s been working so well for them.

How can the United States take steps towards combating climate change, either in nuclear fusion and clean energy or in another aspect of environmental protection?

There are three ways to solve for climate change. You can regulate it, you can incentivize solutions, or you can price pollution. The challenge of the first two is getting them to go global. Our regulations don’t apply in China. Our tax incentives don’t work in India (unless early adoption in America leads to cost-crashes sufficient to make the cleaner technologies widely affordable in the developing world). Pricing pollution can go global if we collect a carbon tax at our borders on goods coming from countries without an equivalent price on carbon pollution (a “border adjustment”). If we make that carbon tax revenue-neutral by pairing it with a cut in existing taxes or a dividend of all of the carbon tax revenue back to our citizens, there would be no growth of government. Accountability for the true cost of burning of fossil fuels would bring the blessings of innovation. Free people engaged in free enterprise would lead the world to a cleaner future.

Getting out the vote: Preventing voter suppression through mail-in voting

Voting via Absentee ballotIn order to have a representative democracy, the United States needs a government that looks like its people. At Renew America Together, we believe that bipartisan collaboration stems from the diversity of thought and the necessity to create the best possible solutions for America. The best way to achieve this goal is by expanding access to vote.

In the middle of a pandemic, expanding mail-in voter access is key. Older citizens that fear infection will still be able to cast their ballot. Families with children that cannot go to school will be able to vote from their home. No one will have to miss work, meetings, or deadlines in order to vote for the highest position in the country. However, this poses a question: what are the benefits and drawbacks of mail-in voting?

Despite claims from the president and other politicians, there is no evidence that expanding voting access leads to higher voter fraud. Currently, five states have universal mail-in voting: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Universal mail-in voting means that the state automatically mails every eligible voter a ballot before the election. 32 other states have mail-in voting by request, where eligible voters must request a mail-in ballot, but do not require an excuse to vote by mail. In past elections, there have not been increased cases of voter fraud in any of the five universal mail-in voting states, nor amongst the 32 additional states that have no-excuse mail-in voting.

However, the major drawback of an expansion of mail-in voting is the length of time that it takes to manually count mail-in ballots. In Wisconsin and New York, two states that tested out mail-in voting for state elections this year, it took over three weeks to count all the mail-in ballots and over 20% of all submitted ballots were marked as invalid. This provides an opportunity for foreign or domestic disinformation campaigns to run rampant through social media, undermining the legitimacy of the election and the eventual outcome of the winner.

In addition, if the votes are not counted by a specific deadline, a state will not be eligible to hold a recount. During the 2000 election, the Supreme Court ruled in Bush v. Gore that Florida could not manually recount the ballots before the state electoral deadline, preventing any recount from changing the outcome of the election. States could potentially suppress the vote by delaying counting the ballots until the last minute, preventing any external verification of the outcome.

How do we prevent potential voter suppression and disinformation from inhibiting expanding safe voting during a pandemic? Firstly, we should encourage as many people as possible to vote early. Mail-in ballots can be sent in early in most states and will pressure states to not delay counting the vote. Secondly, we should educate American voters about filling out mail-in ballots to prevent ineligible or invalid ballots from being discarded. Many mail-in ballots require multiple signatures and specific criteria in order to be valid. By educating voters about these specific requirements, fewer ballots will be marked invalid and more Americans will be able to cast their vote.

The United States needs to expand voting access for Americans during this pandemic in a secure and legitimate way. Through education and early voting, Americans can protect our electoral integrity from foreign disinformation and voter suppression.

Ex-commander Wesley Clark decries Trump’s Syria decision

by Frank E. Lockwood | October 15, 2019 at 7:15 a.m

ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump’s abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies is a victory for Russia and raises questions about his fitness as well as his motivations, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark said Monday.

Trump’s actions in Syria and Ukraine have shaken allies, he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in an interview.

For those living in Moscow’s shadow, Trump’s decision raises the specter of “appeasement” and “1938,” he said, a reference to the year that the United Kingdom, France and Italy allowed Nazi Germany to seize the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.

The unfolding disaster in Syria was foreseeable and preventable, Clark said.

“It’s a real tragedy for U.S. foreign policy and for the Kurds,” he said.

“What we did was open the door to a Turkish invasion. We betrayed our Kurdish allies, who lost 10,000 people fighting for us against ISIS. We’ve let ISIS prisoners escape, and their command structure is still intact. So now they’ll be stood up again and coming after the United States. By pulling back, we allowed Syria’s [President] Bashar Assad to reoccupy in the region. And he’s been criticized by us for a decade for human-rights abuses, for oppressive tactics, for wanton killing of civilians. We’ve opened the door to Iran for greater passage, through Syria, to threaten Israel, and we’ve given Russia the strong role of leadership in the region,” he said. “None of that is in the interest of the United States. And here’s the point: Our 50 U.S. troops up there were not in danger. We didn’t have to do this. The question is why we did it.”

The rapid removal of U.S. troops from northern Syria — with little advance notice — was “inexplicable,” Clark said.

“The hardest military operation to run is a withdrawal under pressure. So if you’re not careful, a withdrawal turns into a retreat and a retreat turns into a rout,” he said.

“In this case, the United States is not only withdrawing forces, but it’s, as a national policy, trying to realign itself in the region to compensate for two decades of overextension,” he said. “President Trump is absolutely right. It was a terrible strategic mistake to invade Iraq. However, how you get out is critical.”

The consequences of Trump’s decision should come as no surprise, Clark said.

“Every military and national security expert would have told you what would happen if we pulled those troops out. It’s not partisan. We all know the region. We all understand the complexities,” he said.

With allies doing most of the fighting, the number of U.S. casualties in the area had been low, Clark noted.

“It would be one thing if we were over there at enormous expense losing 100 soldiers a month like we did at the height of the conflict in Baghdad in 2007. But that’s not what’s happening. Actually, there were very few losses from this. We had stabilized the region. So that’s why it’s inexplicable why this decision was made,” he said.

Asked whether Trump’s conduct raises questions about his fitness to be commander in chief, Clark said: “[It] raises many, many questions. We may never understand why he did it. But if you ask the people in the region, they have their own theories. They see it as a betrayal. They believe that maybe he was blackmailed by [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. … Maybe his hotel interests in Turkey conflicted with this. Maybe [Russian President Vladimir] Putin whispered in his ear and said, ‘It’s time to leave.’ Nobody knows why he did it, and we may never find out. He says he trusted his gut. It didn’t work in this case,” Clark said.

Trump’s decision on Syria will have repercussions around the world, he predicted.

“There’s damage in the region, certainly. People like the Kuwaitis, the Qataris, even the Saudis, where he’s reinforced with troops, are asking questions. But it’s actually broader than that. Something like this has global impact.”

In South Korea, confidence could be undermined, he said. In Ukraine, “where people are fighting for the very Western principles that we say we stand for,” concerns were already elevated, he added.

“The basic principle of American diplomacy since the end of the Second World War is, when countries that are weak are facing adversaries that are armed with nuclear weapons, that’s where we come in to help maintain freedom. That’s what NATO was all about. And Ukraine’s not a member of NATO. But these other Eastern European countries that border Ukraine, they are members of NATO. Their leaders told me in New York that this is like 1938 in Europe. They can see the appeasement and they can see what’s coming, so this has global implications,” he added.

Clark, 74, was born in Chicago but raised in Little Rock. Three years after his career with the U.S. Army ended in 2000, he became a Democratic candidate for president, but he withdrew from the race in 2004.

Last week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican and former presidential candidate, was among those who had pleaded with Trump to reverse course, calling it “a HUGE mistake to abandon Kurds.”

“They’ve never asked us to do THEIR fighting-just give them tools to defend themselves. They have been faithful allies. We CANNOT abandon them,” Huckabee tweeted on Oct. 7.

A Section on 10/15/2019

Print Headline: Ex-commander Wesley Clark decries Trump’s Syria decision

Lyon College Hosts Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander

Is there a place for civility and rational debate during the heated political discourse of our times?

Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, believes the answer is a resounding “yes.” He shared his thoughts on the topic and a broad range of other issues in a public forum held at Lyon College on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Clark, a retired four-star U.S. Army general and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, was on campus as part of his “Renew America Together” initiative, focusing on civility and the major concerns Americans face now. 

“We hear that this is the most divided American electorate and the nastiest politics in anybody’s memory, some people say it’s worse than that period before the American Civil War,” Clark said. 

Clark’s thesis, however, is just the opposite. He argues that meeting people from across the country, it appears we “mostly agree on most everything.” 

There may be a difference in priorities or intensity of feeling, he said, but the divisions in the American populace are fewer than one might think. The media and members of both political parties make their existence possible by stirring up differences rather than focusing on common values and interests, according to Clark.

“The question is, what are we really interested in?” Clark asked. “Is it the issues of the moment, gun control, immigration, abortion?” 

“Or is it the longer-term issues like climate change, how to manage the ascent of China, how to get financial security, how to deal with a world that needs U.S. leadership . . . These are the questions we have to resolve.”

Clark foreshadowed that unless American democracy solved these challenges, “they’ll be addressed and solved some other way.”

Beth Anne Rankin, owner and president of Beth Anne Productions Inc. and a former Miss Arkansas, joined Clark in the discussion. 

Rankin, who ran as a Republican for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and 2012, joked she was grateful neither she nor Clark were making their appearances as candidates for office.

The two found common areas of agreement throughout the course of the discussion. Both agreed, for example, that the viciousness of the 24-hour news cycle, a beast that has to be fed constantly, is such that it contributes to “the perception we are more divided than we really are,” said Rankin.

The two likewise found common ground in their concern about the soaring national debt which, at more than $22 trillion, is at the highest levels ever. Clark said, however, that as crucial as it is to address the national debt, he would not put it above such issues as student access to quality preschools or a college education, or maintaining a source of income for senior citizens.

Both also concurred that the role of money in politics has left a negative impact, especially dark money, with anonymous donors hitting nearly $150 million in the 2018 election cycle alone. Each also found agreement in the need to create a nation of “lifelong learners” who can find retraining at local universities and colleges, so that Americans better adapt to the rapid pace of technological change. 

“I do agree with General Clark, these jobs are changing, and our workers of the future are going to have to be resilient,” Rankin said. “We need to create a mindset of resiliency. Because, otherwise, life is going to be disappointing.”

Aside from the issues, Clark conceded that no contemporary politician has been a better communicator, especially in the age of social media and on Twitter, than Donald Trump.

“Now you may not like what he says, or you may love it, but it’s quick, it’s pertinent, it’s on target,” he said. “He’s got an opinion on everything . . . and it doesn’t waste a lot of time.”

The event concluded with questions and answers from the audience who filled the auditorium for the evening’s discussion. Audience members ranged from veterans of foreign wars to current Lyon students and faculty. 

Clark’s non-profit Renew America Together was created to promote and achieve greater common ground in America by reducing partisan division and gridlock. Its stated mission is “to revitalize public and political discourse by teaching and promoting civics, citizenship and civility.”

The Lyon College Division of Advancement hosted the event, which was moderated by The William Jefferson Clinton Professor of International Politics at Lyon College, Dr. Bradley Gitz.

This story courtesy of Lyon College.

NYT Opinion Article: “What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage”

NYT Opinion Article: “What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage”

General Wesley Clark was featured in an Opinion OpEd in The New York Times on May 23rd

Over the years, thousands of cadets at the United States Military Academy, myself included, have memorized and recited West Point’s Cadet Prayer. “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” the prayer goes, “and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

The prayer describes the value of acting for good, and how moral authority is itself the deepest source of power. Cadets are taught that one’s values ought to be the primary reason to seek power, and its only justification for use. This is the essence of the “courage” described in the prayer, the courage that should be a part of every leader’s core.

But we as a nation and as leaders have not always demonstrated this courage. Two major events in my career illustrate when we acted for good with our values in mind, and when we did not.

Read the rest of the Article Here

AR Democrat Gazette: “Retired general Wesley Clark rules out ’20 run”

AR Democrat Gazette: “Retired general Wesley Clark rules out ’20 run”

By Frank E. Lockwood

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark plans to speak at college campuses “about the important issues facing America,” but he won’t be asking any of the students to vote for him.

In an interview, the retired four-star general said he won’t be running for office in 2020, despite entreaties from some Arkansas Democrats.

Read full article on Arkansas Online

Gen. Clark was honored on the 20th Anniversary of the start of Operation Allied Force at the Embassy of Kosovo

Gen. Clark was honored on the 20th Anniversary of the start of Operation Allied Force at the Embassy of Kosovo

March 24 was the 20th anniversary of the start of Operation Allied Force that saved 1.8 million Kosovar-Albanians from ethnic cleansing at the hands of Slobodan Milošević.   General K. Wesley Clark (ret.) was honored at a dinner with at the Kosovo Embassy in Washington. In attendance was current Kosovo Ambassador to US Vlora Çitaku.  Pictures are below.

Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) Awarded Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal

Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) Awarded Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal

Former Democratic candidate for president and four-star Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) was awarded the Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal at a March 14 event hosted by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. 

Clark received the award after speaking about the challenges of overcoming polarization in America. 

Clark served for nearly 40 years in the United States Army, including assignments as Commander of U.S. Southern Command and Commander of U.S. European Command/Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

The Hauenstein Fellowship Medal recognizes the extraordinary life of the center’s namesake, the late Ralph Hauenstein, and honors distinguished individuals who exemplify his spirit of leadership and service, which Grand Valley State University seeks to inspire in its students and graduates.

Previous recipients of the Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal include: President Gerald R. Ford (posthumously), Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State James A. Baker, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Ambassador John Beyrle, President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, Admiral James M. Loy, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Carla Hills, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Penn Today: ‘The conversation America needs’

Penn Today: ‘The conversation America needs’

Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general of the U.S. Army, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, joined the Penn Political Union in College Hall on Wednesday for a wide discussion.

Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general of the U.S. Army, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, joined the Penn Political Union in College Hall on Wednesday for a wide discussion.

A Democrat and a Republican walk into College Hall

With the way the federal government has been operating—now in day 34 of the longest shutdown in history—this may seem like the start of a bad joke. 

But, in fact, this was reality on Wednesday evening, as two political leaders came together to talk reasonably about their differences, as well as commonalities, with a group of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and even folks from the broader Philadelphia community.

The event, hosted by the Penn Political Union (PPU), a nonpartisan student organization sponsored by the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, featured former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general of the U.S. Army who ran as a Democrat for president in 2004, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Longtime political journalist Jessica Yellin skillfully moderated the two-hour conversation.

See The Whole Article here