From right, Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr and California Rep. Jimmy Panetta visit a farm outside Lexington, Ky., during an exchange trip in June with the Bipartisan Policy Center. (Courtesy Bipartisan Policy Center)
OPINION — A California congressman, born in Mexico, introduces a Republican colleague in America’s heartland to traditional Mexican hibiscus water while attending a Cinco de Mayo festival, like the one he started in his home district. Within 24 hours, they receive a classified defense briefing nearby at U.S. Strategic Command headquarters. In ways both lighthearted and serious, that’s how relationships are built under the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Congressional Exchange program, or ACE.
Relationships are foundational. Just as it is hard to trust someone you don’t know, it’s also difficult to disparage a person with whom you’ve broken bread — or shared hibiscus water, eaten fried pickles or tasted olive oil on ice cream. And experiencing the world through the eyes and perspective of another is frequently illuminating.