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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo

Tom Jones hosts annual Halbrook Conversations

Discusses how the past shapes the future

The Halbrook Conversation took place at Ayres Hall on March 19, preceding upcoming presidential elections.

Tom Jones, Halbrook Distinguished Chair of civic history and professor of history emeritus, presented the information.

“I hope this is a conversation and not a lecture or presentation,” Jones said in his opening comments.

Jones began the event by talking about three crucial U.S. elections, which he chose to focus on in light of today’s political climate.

He highlighted the crucial elections in 1800, 1828 and 1860 of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln respectively.

“There is a tendency in American political history to look at any election as the most important and dramatic election possible,” Jones said.

Each of the three elections provides a different angle on how presidential campaigns in the past have reflected current events, he said. The goal of the 1800 election was to reclaim the spirit of the first presidential campaign; the election of George Washington in 1776. American citizens had a deep desire for unity and peace.

In 1828, Andrew Jackson — the seventh president of the U.S. — aspired to present a fresh view of democracy. He wanted to show Americans that there were new ways to do old things.

Jones dubbed the 1860 elections as the apocalyptic election — a house divided.

Trends in the elections of the 19th century still occur today. People want peace, but they also want new things; the U.S. is truly a house divided, Jones said.

To close his conversation, Jones reminded the audience how to live and converse as Christians in such a politically tense time.

“Remember who is in charge; take a deep breath,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of incorporating the Lord’s Prayer into these conversations as well as daily life.

As the event concluded, people mingled and continued to discuss.

“I would hope that we could all have a calmer approach… knowing what we believe and being serious about what we believe, but recognizing that people can have opposing points of view,” Jones said.

Philip Byers, Halbrook Chair of Civil Engagement elect, added to this idea following the event. 

“While elections matter greatly and we should exercise our civil rights with moral seriousness, they are not the beginning or the end of our responsibilities as citizens and as disciples of Jesus,” he said. “God has always been faithful.”

Jakob Miller, associate professor of political science, attended the conversation and his comments continued to help bring further clarity to the focus of Dr. Jones’ words.

“Politics can do a lot — put people on the moon, build roads across a continent, wage war — but it is not God,” Miller said. “Our hope is in him, and all politics and politicians are just earthly things, not worthy of our worship or our hope.”

Ultimately, the goal of the Halbrook Conversation is to spark conversation among believers, Jones said. He believes that there is a peaceful and Godly way of approaching politics.

Learn from the past, submit it to God and be loving, gentle and willing to engage in conversations — even when there may be a variety of opinions, said Jones in closing.