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Kerrey, Hagel talk civility, Trump during University of Nebraska lecture

October 24, 2018 GMT

LINCOLN - Two former United States Senators talked politics, civility, and the future of the country at the University of Nebraska’s Innovation Campus in Lincoln.

Former Senators Bob Kerrey, a Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, a Republican, spoke to a packed audience at the Heuermann Lecture.

The discussion ranged wide and at about the 45-minute mark, Kerrey interjected.

“Look, I’m impressed we spent the entire time here and haven’t mentioned his name,” Kerrey said to laughter.

Hagel did mention President Trump’s name and the contentious 2016 presidential election.

“Because you asked specifically about the current occupant of the White House. What’s his name?” Hagel asked, snapping his fingers. “I don’t believe President Trump was the cause of anything. I think he was the consequence.”

Hagel said three aspects are vital to leadership: character, courage, and judgment.

Hagel, who served a somewhat turbulent tenure as Defense Secretary in the Obama Administration, said the county is better than what we’re seeing today. Hagel said the military is the only institution which has retained its status in the eye of the public. He said he remains optimistic the country will rebound from its current state of incivility.

While Hagel called civility the glue that binds a society, Kerrey said you cannot talk about civility without mentioning social media. Kerrey admitted he didn’t have a solution, but said it was too easy to bypass normal media channels to use social media to terrify an opponent, spreading conspiracies in an effort to “shut them up.”

Kerrey contended it is easier to hate today through social media, adding if you don’t fight hate, it wins.

Hagel represented Nebraska in the Senate for two terms from 1997 to 2009. Though a registered Republican, Hagel is campaigning for Democrats running for Senate this fall.

Kerrey also served two terms in the Senate, from 1989 to 2001. Kerrey served as governor of Nebraska four years prior to winning his seat in the Senate.

The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL sponsored the lecture.