‘Bipartisan Road Trip’ Inspires Allegheny College to Honor Texas Congressmen Beto O’Rourke and Will Hurd with the 2018 Prize for Civility in Public Life

Allegheny College President James H. Mullen, Jr. presented the 2018 Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life to Texas Congressmen Will Hurd (R) and Beto O’Rourke (D) for their “bipartisan road trip” last year, when the two congressmen from opposing parties live-streamed collegial discussions on the divisive issues of the day over a 1,600-mile drive from Texas to the Capitol.

“The Bipartisan Road trip gives us all hope that civility is not dead,” shared Mullen. “To the contrary, the torch of championing civility in public life is being passed on – from great Americans like Gov. Ridge and previous winners of our Prize such as Joe Biden and John McCain to a new generation of leaders represented so powerfully by Will Hurd and Beto O’Rourke.”

The congressmen’s road trip — amplified through Facebook and Periscope — received national attention. Immigration, healthcare and hamburgers were among the topics discussed by Rep. Hurd and Rep. O’Rourke during the more-than-24-hour trip to the nation’s capital that they took after winter weather canceled their flights.

“They reminded us of an important legacy in American democracy: that there can be joy in politics; that in the contest of ideas and partisan competition there can be laughter and even friendship.”

The move inspired those following along on social media to share words of encouragement for the congressmen and gave a sense of hope for those navigating through this challenging political climate, with one commenter on Facebook noting, “This gives me faith for our country.”

“It’s a tremendous honor to receive the same award bestowed on leaders like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senator John McCain and the women of the Senate. Just as they have demonstrated before me, we must be able to disagree without being disagreeable to ensure that the competition of ideas that has powered this experiment called America continues to work,” said US Representative Will Hurd (TX-23). “Furthermore, if we live in a society where the pursuit of mutual understanding is no longer a virtue, then our enemies will be able to exploit the resulting divide.”

“The urgent concerns we’re hearing across all 254 counties of Texas are too critical to abandon civility, decency and bipartisanship for anything that could otherwise divide us,” said Congressman O’Rourke (TX-16). “It’s an honor to receive this award and now we must come together as Texans, as Americans to get after the big, bold, important work ahead of our country.”

Allegheny College created its national Prize for Civility in Public Life in 2011 to recognize two public figures, one from the left and one from the right, who argue passionately but with civility for their beliefs.

“The conversations in Washington are becoming increasingly divided and instances of civility are becoming rare,” said Governor Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and advisor to the civility prize. “The congressmen used their road trip as an opportunity to lead by example and publicly showed how we should be having these important conversations. The prize seeks to celebrate civility when we see it rather than lament its absence, in hopes that others will be inspired to hold themselves to a higher standard.”

Previous winners of the national award include: the remarkable friendship of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia in 2017; then-Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who were recognized in 2016 for the powerful moments of civility they displayed during a modern presidential campaign; and the “Women of the U.S. Senate,” who were honored in 2014 for banding together to help end a government shutdown and creating a more civil climate in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the Prize for Civility in Public Life, visit Allegheny College’s website.