At a time when politics seems more divisive than ever, we can always look for more ways to come together as friends and fellow citizens. In their new book, Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country, Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy explore their time together in Congress and reflect on the divisions that are hurting our country and how we can find common ground instead of digging the divide even deeper. This isn’t a policy book, it’s a book about friendship and faith and finding common ground with those who others might think your enemy or your polar opposite. Overall, this is an uplifting book about two great men in Congress, the power of friendship, and hope for the future.
In alternating sections, Scott and Gowdy begin this book by talking about their early days together in Congress, before Scott moved to the Senate. The introductions that had to be made, what it was like to be assigned to certain committees, where they had lunch and dinner, and what it was like to get Paul Ryan’s autograph. It’s actually a really fascinating look into the first days of a new career in Congress, from hiring the right staff in DC and your home district to learning where you can and cannot go without certain approval to where you’ll sleep at night. However, what struck me most about this chapter, was how Scott and Dowdy’s friendship blossomed before your eyes, how occasional dinners became regular affairs and their conversations deepened to be about faith and family and more than just their daily to do list. But at the same time, they trusted each other enough to talk about the tough things they were dealing with legislatively.
From there, Scott and Dowdy explore and array of topics that have shaped their friendship as a white and a black man from a notoriously segregated state. They talk about finding common ground as Dallas Cowboys and USC Gamecocks fans and through their faith and how each person humbled the others in time of need. One particularly touching story, for me as a reader, was when Tim Scott was dealing with a lot of ugly rhetoric online (He still has to deal with this today!) but Gowdy had read an article that really ticked him off. He went to Scott to talk about it, to say that Scott should write a response or condemn this man who called him these awful names and tried to defame him, but Scott simply told Gowdy that he was going to pray for the man. Obviously, Gowdy was blown away by the character of this man, but he also made a very funny comment to the reader about never again going to Scott for help with retaliation, because he’ll just pray for his enemies.
Then, Gowdy and Scott turn to a hot topic in America, the police. Each talks about their own experience with the police, from Scott as a black man who was once pulled over seven times in one year, to Gowdy, who was a prosecutor who saw the good and the bad in the police. I won’t try and explain their complete thoughts on law enforcement, because I cannot possibly say it as well as they do, but these are very interesting chapters that are full of compassion and understanding for their own experiences and the experiences of others. That is one of the core tenets they talk about in this book: listening and understanding before jumping in with a contradictory opinion or view. Those chapters will definitely keep you thinking well after you are finished with the book.
Overall, this is a must-read book for conservatives who are worried about divisiveness and discord in our country and want to make a difference. This is a book for people who know that yelling at the other side isn’t getting us anywhere. This is a book for people who value what those higher up have to say, not from a policy standpoint necessarily, but from the point of view that these people have lived full and interesting lives. I highly recommend this book to conservatives, but I don’t think any liberal is going to pick it up because of the authors, even if I don’t think it is an inherently political book. Let’s just be realistic here. But those of you who do read it, I hope you will put its principles into practice and work on building common ground with those who you might not agree with before you get into a twitter war or public debate over some issue. Left or right, Democrat or Republican, black or white, tall or short, we all have more in common than we might think.