Trey Kay Published

Us & Them: The Elephant in the (Class) Room


We’re at the end of graduation season. Over the past few weeks, young grads donned in hard-earned caps and gowns, have gathered on college greens to pose for an endless number of photos with proud family members, fellow co-eds … and professors.

Back in 2016, I produced a piece for the New Yorker Radio Hour, which featured an unlikely friendship between a professor at Vassar College and one of his students. What made this bond unusual? Well, even though Vassar — located in Poughkeepsie, NY — may be considered your typical liberal northeastern college, the student body defies categories. But even among all of this student diversity, one particular student made a strong impression on English Literature Professor Hua Hsu: 35-year-old Army veteran and self-proclaimed Texas Republican Dave Carrell.

So like oil and water, here we have the makings of an “us and them” culture clash before the backdrop of a liberal college campus in New York’s Hudson Valley. But Dave Carrell, the elephant in the room — or the classroom — surprised Professor Hsu, and Hsu responded in kind.

On this week’s episode of the “Us and Them” podcast: embedding yourself in the other part of America and finding common ground.

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting and PRX, this is “Us & Them” the podcast where we tell the stories about America’s cultural divides.

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