02/08/2013 10:38 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2013

A Nation Divided? A Nation United?

This week I had a unique opportunity to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. For those unaware, it's a 61-year-old tradition for the president, senators, congressmen, and delegates from around the world to get together and, well... pray.

Thursday morning Andrea Bocelli sang the opening song to bring the breakfast to order as Senator Mark Pryor and Jeff Sessions MC'd the event together. Dr. Ben Carson gave a keynote address, and President Obama gave a few insightful reflections.

At the end of the breakfast, Mr. Bocelli sang another song as a benediction, and I was blown away. This man's voice is nothing short of angelic, but it was his comments after the final note that brought everyone to their feet.

I hesitate to put quotes here as to not misquote his final words, but it went something like 'my country is in trouble, and I'm impressed that the Right and the Left political parties can come together like this in America.'


The crowd rose to the occasion, and applauded for about five minutes in unison.

I looked over at my friends in disbelief.

I don't know if you can even begin to feel the impact of a blind opera man watching this interesting point in time as he described the problem with our system. He conveyed the need to debate public policy vigorously for what each side feels to be right, but he noticed how when it was time to stop fighting, there was a place where people could be human again.

In my work with teens, I believe students need to see more of this.

Teenagers need to know there's a place for debate, but there's a place for civility.
They need to understand it's okay to disagree without feeling the pressure of being persecuted, because in the end we're all just trying to do the right thing according to our own worldview.

That's what made America great!

Our best times in history are the one's with fierce disagreement employing dynamic tensions in our society. But our ugliest times in history are when the disagreement bleeds over to a place of disdain, vitriol, and hatred.

It was amazing to see these senators and congressmen under one roof for a common goal. It put into context the deep divide the media continues to talk about, because in the end each person was represented with value.

Mr. Bocelli, I thank you for your insight, your words, your song, and the way you were able to see an America deeply divided, yet able to come to an event and be people of all sides willing to lay down our ideological weapons even for a moment, and be human.

What an amazing experience.