Photo credit: @Brandon Laufenberg 2019. All rights reserved.

A lesson in narrowing the political divide in our country

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on May 22,  2023.

Can we narrow the political divide in our country? In a November 2018 article, I criticized President Donald Trump for discounting the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam of Saudi Arabia was responsible for the murder of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and for not holding bin Salam accountable. 

Trump said, “Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs?” in reference to the business the Saudis do with the U.S.

In my article I wrote, “What about reaffirming America’s commitment to human rights values, a question asked by both Democrat and Republican lawmakers?”

A reader of that article, Dennis Hathaway of San Antonio, Texas, wrote an email to me disagreeing with what I wrote. Through a number of email exchanges, we narrowed the gap in our views—a lesson in civility that we can all learn from. Abridged excerpts from our email exchange which I wrote about in a December 2018 article are as follows:

Hathaway: Thanks for the article Stan. I have to disagree with you though. I doubt any other president would have done much different [than Trump]. Remember the 9/11 hijackers all came thru Saudi Arabia and nothing was done then to sanction Saudi.  

I’ve about had it with the “it’s not who we are” statements. It’s a good line that is used by the Democrats and liberals to criticize the conservative side of American politics. We as a country, are who we are.

Silverman: Thanks Dennis, for your comments on my article yesterday. Yes, you’re right. Saudi Arabia was not sanctioned after 9/11. You write, “I’ve about had it with the ‘it’s not who we are’ statements. It’s a good line that is used by the Democrats and liberals to criticize the conservative side of American politics.”

Dennis, for the record, I had been a Republican my entire life. I switched my voter registration to Independent in March 2018. What I am is a patriot, who strongly believes in country before party.

And, it is who we are as a nation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) has taken the same position as I have, as reported in a news article headlined, “McConnell: Saudi actions ‘abhorrent’ and warrant ‘response.” 

Quoting McConnell, “What obviously happened … is completely abhorrent to everything the United States holds dear and stands for in the world. Some kind of response to that certainly would be in order.” 

Hathaway: Thanks Stan. I too believe in country before party. I just firmly believe we would not have taken action against [the Saudis after 9/11] because we need them for various military staging areas, and at that time, for oil to carry out our actions against Al Qaeda.

Photo credit: @Brandon Laufenberg 2019. All rights reserved.

Silverman: Hi Dennis. I basically agree with the points in your latest email. 

I want to share with you an article that I write each year on the anniversary of 9/11. Glad we are having this exchange of ideas and views.

Hathaway: Very well-written article, Stan. I was on a flight from Baltimore to Mississippi during that event. One of my best friends was a NYC fire fighter with Rescue 3. He was off duty headed home and turned around to come help his brothers. He was lost when the towers collapsed.

My wife was across the river from the Pentagon and right across the street from the State Department. She spent much of the day coordinating Navy medical response.

My son was and still is in the Army. He was in the first raid with the Army Rangers into Afghanistan. Thankfully, he has managed to complete 55 months of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan with just a few scars.

I think you are correct, that’s who we really are as Americans. We just can’t seem to hold that reality once things “settle down” again.

Silverman: You and your family have been touched in so many ways by 9/11, Dennis. I am so sorry for the loss of your courageous friend. A hero in every sense of the word. Glad your son remains safe (with a few scars) during his time in the military. We are all in debt to him for his service.

Hathaway: I have no problem with discussing differing views, with anyone who can provide a different set of facts, or another way of looking at the problem. You get better solutions to problems that way.


Our email conversation narrowed the gap in our views because we listened to each other and acknowledged each other’s points even when we did not necessarily agree with them. We may be more alike than it may seem, given today’s political environment.

We are all patriots. We need to talk to each other and not at each other about issues impacting our nation.

Stan Silverman is founder of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

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