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January 13th, 2011
01:51 PM ET

THE BIG I: Bringing Together the Left & Right

Here is the full text of the letter sent by Sen. Mark Udall to Congressional leaders proposing that members of both political parties sit next to each other at this year's State of the Union Address:

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Overcoming Divided Government
January 12, 2011

Dear Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, Minority Leaders McConnell and Pelosi:

We, the undersigned members of Congress, believe that partisan seating arrangements at State of the Union addresses serve to symbolize division instead of the common challenges we face in securing a strong future of the United States.

As we all know, the tenor and debate surrounding our politics has grown ever more corrosive – ignoring the fact that while we may take different positions, we all have the same interests. This departure from statesmanship and collegiality is fueled, in part, by continuous campaigns and divisive rhetoric. Political differences will always generate a healthy debate, but over time the dialogue has become more hateful and at times violent. But now the opportunity before us is to bring civility back to politics. It is important to show the nation that the most powerful deliberative bodies in the world can debate our differences with respect, honor and civility. It is not only possible, but it is something that nearly all members of Congress truly desire. To that end, we should set a small, but important, new tradition in American politics.

At the State of the Union address on January 25th, instead of sitting in our usual partisan divide, let us agree to have Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side throughout the chamber. Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen united as a country. The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room – while the other side sits – is unbecoming of a serious institution. And the message that is sends is that even on a night when the President is addressing the entire nation, we in Congress cannot sit as one, but must be divided as two.

On the night of the State of the Union address, House and Senate members from both parties ought to cross the aisle and sit together. As the nation watches, Democrats and Republicans should reflect the interspersed character of America itself. Perhaps, by sitting with each other for one night, we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good.

I plan to send the attached letter to both House and Senate leadership indicating an intention to pursue a bipartisan seating arrangement. If you are interested in joining on this letter, please have a staff member contact Hillary Daniels.

With respect and admiration,

Mark Udall
United States Senator

Also, click here to check out CNN's Political Ticker with more info on the proposal.

Filed under: Ali Velshi • Anchors • The Big I
January 13th, 2011
11:36 AM ET

Q&A: Guns Around The World

In a tragic new twist on "the gunshot heard around the world", the tragedy in Arizona has people around the world talking about the political tone in the U.S., how the U.S. deals with the mentally ill and, of course, guns.  Much of the world still looks to the U.S. as a country which, strangely to some, affords its citizens constitutional protection to be armed to the teeth.  But how DO America's gun laws compare to those of other countries, and what effect have different gun laws had on crime?

In the first Q&A of the year, Richard Quest and I will take a different approach.  We'll offer our thoughts on guns and laws. Then, instead of The Voice asking us questions, we'll tell each other – and you – what we've learned about gun laws around the world.

Tune in at 2p ET on CNN U.S./1900 GMT on CNN International


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Filed under: Ali Velshi • Q&A