A snowstorm and a vote on Capitol Hill was all it took to get two Texas congressmen from opposing parties to make a 1,600 mile drive and discuss their political differences along the way.
The 2018 Prize for Civility in Public Life was awarded to Will Hurd and Beto O’Rourke, Texas congressmen, by Allegheny College President James Mullen and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge on Tuesday, July 17, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In attendance were current students interning in Washington, D.C. or on campus for the summer, alumni, the board of trustees and college administrators.
The Prize for Civility in Public Life has been awarded each year since 2012 to two public figures who have demonstrated civility throughout their professional careers.
“Within our democracy there remain many good people, some of great national stature and others who toil in comparative anonymity,” Mullen said. “Each of whom fight in the political arena for their beliefs with zeal and with passion, but who seek to do so with civility.”
Mullen accredited Hurd and O’Rourke’s win of the prize to their “bipartisan road trip” in March 2017.
Due to bad weather and snow, all flights from Texas to Washington, D.C. were cancelled and the congressmen had to figure out a way to get to the capitol on time for floor votes the following day.
O’Rourke suggested they make the drive together, despite their differing political opinions.
To O’Rourke’s surprise, Hurd agreed, and they hopped in a Chevy Impala and began their journey.
“I learned after the fact that when Beto suggested we go on this trip, he never thought I’d say yes,” Hurd said.
Hurd and O’Rourke livestreamed their 36 hour trip, and millions of people tuning in. The congressmen answered questions and debated topics like healthcare and border security.
“We didn’t always agree, but through that process, through that trip, we actually learned [disagreeing] unites us as a country [more than it divides us],” Hurd said.
The bipartisan road trip made national news and demonstrated an American desire for civility.
“I’ll be honest, the first 90 minutes were pretty rough, and people were being pretty nasty [in the comments] and Beto was driving, and I had to read the feeds,” Hurd said. “But after about 90 minutes, people started realizing that this is something that needs to happen a little more often,” Hurd said. “The road trip actually demonstrated the nation’s desire for civility and bipartisanship.”
O’Rourke and Hurd’s road trip led to a friendship that transcends party lines.
“[For Hurd] to be able to see me as a fellow human being, a fellow Texan, a fellow American and to have these unguarded conversations about health care, the investigation into Russia’s hacking of our election system in 2016, the first girl he ever dated, or how he learned how to drive and to do it in front of millions of people who were following that Facebook livestream was really inspiring to me and of that a friendship was forged,” O’Rourke said.