Barbour, Lott Call for Citizen Leadership

Bipartisanship is key to 'moving Mississippi forward,' former officials say

Former Gov. Haley Barbour (second from left) and retired U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (third from left) discuss the importance of bipartisan cooperation to solve problems during the ‘Moving Mississippi Forward’ public discussion at Ole Miss. Co-sponsored by the university’s Lott Leadership Institute and Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, the event also featured moderators Bill Gotshall (left), Lott Institute executive director, and Scott Kilpatrick, CME director. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Stating that government effectiveness depends upon the people’s input, former Gov. Haley Barbour and retired U.S. Sen. Trent Lott challenged listeners Thursday (Oct. 1) at the University of Mississippi to become united in facing society’s challenges.

Barbour and Lott led the “Moving Mississippi Forward” discussion at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. The hourlong public forum, attended by about 100 people, was co-sponsored by the university’s Trent Lott Leadership Institute and Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

“We can make this country better by reaching across the aisles,” Barbour said. “We are a divided country, but my mother always said that crises usually bring out the best in people.

“That sort of attitude today can go a long, long way toward easing the polarity that is dividing our nation.”

Real leadership, such as that being produced at Ole Miss, can overcome the problems of the present, Lott said.

“Ole Miss has been at the center of developing leaders for well over a century,” he said. “I believe that good leaders become even better leaders when they learn from each other and from history.”

Barbour praised Lott as an example of great leadership.

“Sen. Lott and Sen. Tom Daschel reached across the aisles to get things done,” he said. “Times may have changed, but we can still do that now.”

Communication and chemistry are essential tools for leaders, Lott said.

“One of the most important tools of leadership is communication,” he said. “We also need to take time to develop relationships with one another. Effective leaders listen to one another and then do whatever is best for the people.”

Both speakers shared memories of their own involvement in state and federal government.

“The reason that we were able to accomplish so much was because we chose to be bipartisan,” Lott said.

“After 9/11, the conservative Republicans supported recovery efforts initiated by the liberal Democrats. Following Hurricane Katrina, the liberal Democrats supported recovery efforts led by the conservative Republicans. That’s the way it works.”

While Americans generally don’t like change, they are good at it when necessary, Barbour said.

“We are better at adapting to change than any other nation in the world,” he said. “Our ability to adapt is where our hope for a better future lies.”

Noting that division poses challenges to moving forward, Lott observed that people on both sides of the aisle are making a difference. He also emphasized that advances in technology will play a major role in global advancement.

“We shall see a change,” he said. “What’s happening in technology is a mind-boggling, worldwide thing. It’s coming and it’s going to be amazing.

“Together, we will make life on Earth a better place.”