Epigram: ''I always worry when I see debate being restricted' | In conversation with Joh
On tour as a volunteer with the Pinsker Center, a think tank who facilitate political discussions and talks at universities across the country, Epigram speaks to John Baird about his rise to the position of Foreign Minister in Canada, a role from which he resigned in 2015. Baird gave a talk with questions open to the floor at the end, jointly facilitated by UoB’s Middle East Forum, Conservative Society and Canadian Society.
Baird is an advocate for open dialogue in universities. He explains to me how it was at talks like his tonight where he heard ‘people from around the world, people I agreed with, people I disagreed with.’ To him, debate between students is of the upmost importance. ‘I think it opens your mind. And you learn you have your views and values, your principles challenged. And that's an interesting, important thing.’
When he tells me that ‘I always worry when I see debate being restricted on campus to say one side is right and one side is wrong,’ it feels relevant. Less than a year ago, the University of Bristol re-affirmed its commitment to freedom of speech after 200 people signed an open letter calling for an event to be cancelled that had the potential for transphobic sentiment and language. The free speech debate is definitely still alive and present within discussions at our university.
He reminds me how ‘fundamental things about universities are learning - education and learning,’ and that we can often learn through debate, through negotiation, through listening to others.
Along with listing ‘economic opportunity,’ living ‘in a world that has peace and stability,’ ‘human rights,’ and the ‘environment,’ as political and international concerns for young people, it seems John Baird has left me with a lot to think about.
However, he has also provided some reassurance that young people in politics can, will and should be listened to and taken seriously.
The full article was published here at Bristol University's Epigram newspaper.