Civility in public service
Photos by Evan Krape May 24, 2023
UD Biden School honors senators for work on Respect for Marriage Act
At a time when distrust in American institutions is on the rise and manifestations of partisan polarization reach new extremes, instances of bipartisan compromise and civil discourse appear few and far between.
As the United States continues to face ongoing threats to democracy amid political violence, rampant conspiracy theories and deep polarization, it is critical that elected officials and policymakers at all levels of government — from local school boards to the White House — reach across political divides and engage in civil debate to tackle the pressing issues facing communities across the U.S and advance the policies that will create a brighter future for all Americans.
That kind of bipartisan cooperation and collaboration was on full display when two tenacious senators – Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) — joined together to introduce and eventually pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law on December 13, 2022.
On Thursday, May 18, the University of Delaware Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration honored Collins and Baldwin with the Biden School Civility in Public Service Award. The award, sponsored by the school’s SNF Ithaca Initiative, honors the senators for their efforts to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which enshrines marriage equality in federal law.
“Working across the aisle to achieve common goals is what voters want and deserve, and I am so proud to have done just that with Senator Collins to pass the Respect for Marriage Act,” Baldwin said. “This commonsense legislation affirms our shared belief that same-sex and interracial couples deserve the same freedoms and rights as any other couple. I am honored to receive this award from SNF Ithaca Initiative at the University of Delaware’s Biden School and appreciate their work instilling the values of civility, collaboration, and service into the next generation of leaders.”
Collins added, “The Respect for Marriage Act is an historic law that protects both marriage equality and religious liberties. I was proud to join my friend Senator Baldwin in leading the successful bipartisan coalition that made this legislation possible. Thank you to the University of Delaware for this recognition and for the important work happening on campus to increase civil discourse and shape the next generation of leaders.”
The award, which honors two public servants from disparate places on the political spectrum who successfully worked together for the public good, was presented by Amy Ellen Schwartz, dean of the Biden School, and Valerie Biden Owens, chair of the Biden Institute.
“The Biden School’s mission is to inspire, educate and empower new generations of policy leaders and to provide them with the practical skills necessary to reach across divides and work together to advance policy solutions to some of our nation’s greatest challenges,” Schwartz said. “The senators’ work exemplifies the sort of civil discourse and civic engagement that we hope our students take into their careers as they become our future leaders.”
Also in attendance at the award ceremony were Sen. Chris Coons, Sen.Tom Carper and former Sen. Ted Kaufman.
To learn more about the Biden School’s SNF Ithaca Initiative and its work to unite college students in the spirit of civil, civic engagement, visit bidenschool.udel.edu/snfithaca.
About the UD Biden School
Established in 1961 and named in 2018 for the University of Delaware’s most distinguished alumnus, the 46th president of the United States, the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration prepares students with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in research and public service activities to improve the quality of life in communities around the world. The Biden School’s faculty, staff, students and alumni create and use interdisciplinary, nonpartisan research and empirically based analysis to inform effective decision-making and policy and to improve leadership and administration. The Biden School partners with organizations from all sectors to discover innovative and equitable solutions to the critical challenges of our time.
About the SNF Ithaca Initiative
In fall of 2021, the UD Biden School launched a civil discourse and civic engagement pilot program supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Called the SNF Ithaca Initiative, the program is named after the home of Odysseus — one of Greek mythology's greatest leaders whose talent for persuasive discourse was revered in ancient Greece. For Odysseus, Ithaca represents not only the beginning of a journey but the ultimate destination. Likewise, the SNF Ithaca Initiative will serve both as the beginning of our students' journey toward becoming effective citizens and as the ultimate destination for students from across the country to come together and develop the civil, civic engagement skills that will strengthen our democracy.