The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life Hosts 'Political Polarization: A Conversation Across the Divide' on Oct. 18

While polarization can make politics more exciting for intense partisans, it can hinder compromise and governing. In an effort to bridge the partisan divide, the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication will host "Political Polarization: A Conversation Across the Divide." The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Belo Auditorium in Room 2.106 of the Belo Center for New Media, 300 W. Dean Keeton St. The event is free and open to the public, but seats are limited. Click here to RSVP.

The following speakers will address what is driving political polarization and how citizens can improve the political system:

Mark McKinnon, media producer and communications strategist

McKinnon has more than 30 years of experience solving strategic challenges for causes, companies and candidates, including President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Ann Richards.

According to Broadcasting and Cable magazine, McKinnon is one of "a handful of players behind every big decision, consensus or roadblock in Washington... putting a unique, sometimes hidden stamp on the outcome of today's debates."

"McKinnon is evidence that principled centrism is not an oxymoron," wrote John Avalon in a Daily Best column. "McKinnon piloted John McCain's 2008 primary campaign to victory. But he announced in advance that if Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, he would ride off into the sunset rather than participate in the negative attacks he knew would be required. This is unheard of in the world of modern politics, where partisanship trumps principle as a matter of course."

He serves on the board of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and lectures at The University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs and Harvard University's JFK School of Government. He also co-chairs Arts+Labs, a collaboration between technology and creative communities.

Trey Grayson, director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics

Before becoming director of the Institute of Politics in 2011, Grayson served six years on the Institute's senior advisory committee.

Grayson is a recognized expert on the political beliefs of millennials, America's largest generation. Grayson's work as Institute director also focuses on exploring ways to increase fairness in and access to the democratic and electoral process, including election administration and voter registration reforms.

He previously served two terms as Kentucky's secretary of state from 2004 to 2011, elected in his first run for political office in November of 2003 making him the youngest secretary of state in the U.S. at that time. In office, he was recognized as a national leader in elections, civics, business services and government innovation and served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2009-2010.

Linda Moore Forbes, senior political strategist

A 25-year political veteran, Forbes is the founder and president of LMF Strategies, which provides political analysis and strategic advice to government, education, media, private sector and nonprofit entities. She also serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and the Fellows Alumni Advisory Council for Harvard's Institute of Politics.

As a resident fellow at the Institute in 2011, she lectured on the decline of centrists and the increase of polarization in both parties and its effects on policy and politics.

From 2001 to 2011, Forbes served as senior adviser to Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, helping to establish the senator's profile as a national leader and spokesman for centrist Democrats. In 2004 she served as political director for the John Kerry for President campaign. In 2008, during its most critical and tumultuous period in the primaries, the Hillary Clinton for President campaign recruited Forbes to serve as director of Congressional Affairs and as a member of the campaign's strategic decision-making team.

Forbes also served in the Clinton White House Office of Political Affairs and as deputy political director for the Clinton-Gore campaign.

About the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life

The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life was established as an organized research unit at The University of Texas at Austin in 2000 to respond to growing political cynicism and disaffection in the United States. The Institute's mission is strictly nonpartisan, working within communities to engage people in the political process, teaching them about the nation's democratic heritage and encouraging them to take leadership roles.

About The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication

One of the nation's foremost institutions for the study of advertising and public relations, communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, journalism and radio-TV-film, The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication is preparing students to thrive in an era of media convergence. Serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students, the College is nationally recognized for its faculty members, research and student media. For more information about the College of Communication, visit