Whenever I tell someone that I’m a political science minor, the question of my own personal political beliefs inevitably comes up.

People assume that because I’m interested in the study of politics, that I have a strong political opinion. In my case, this is true. However, I do not always feel comfortable sharing my opinion because I fear disagreement and conflict with my friends and family.

I become especially squeamish when asked about my political opinions. I have strong convictions and I enjoy discussion. However, I know that there are certain people that will never stray from their own opinions, no matter how convincing and knowledgable the other side of the argument may be. These types of people often become angry and instead of actually listening to their opponent's opinion, focus solely on their next angry rebuttal. Having discussions with these types of people is especially frustrating for me and therefore I try to avoid it. I don't want people dislike me because I have the gall to challenge their opinions.

There is no denying that politics can become a controversial topic of discussion. Political parties, in their very nature, are about differing values. However, our political culture has become so polarized that it seems inevitable that a differing opinion of politics means that two people must be enemies.

I’m here to challenge this notion.

I am not here to neutralize everyone’s political opinions, nor am I here to discourage political discussion. Rather, I am I here to encourage civil discussion that ultimately focuses on respect.

With the presidential election quickly approaching, it is extremely important that people become educated and passionate about politics. After all, these politicians may be running our country in the future. However, being interested in politics and developing opinion doesn’t have to mean losing relationships with those that disagree with you.

You undeniably have your own strong opinions, but it is also important to listen to the opinions of others (no matter how frustrating it may be if they differ from your own).

I may completely disagree with your political opinion, but I can still show enough respect to listen to what you have to say. I can value an intelligent and civil political discussion with someone that I disagree with as long as we both listen to one another.

We are all stubborn in our own ways, but obstinate patterns of thinking limit our life’s relationships and our ability to understand the world. If we only spent time with people with whom we always agreed, our lives would be pretty boring and we would be pretty ignorant.

Disagreement isn’t always pretty, but it can be respectful and even constructive. Divergence of opinions is what makes our country a great place for everyone. However, we must learn to appreciate and respect our own differences, rather than see them as a partition within our society.