ELMIRA HEIGHTS | Dr. Stephen Coleman still believes the answer to America’s divisive political atmosphere is more talking -- and more listening.


Thursday will mark the 17th Political Pundit Night he’s hosted.


“I hope this is a chance for people in the Twin Tiers to talk and listen at a very critical time in American history,” Coleman told The Leader. “A lot of people are talking but I don’t think there’s much listening.”


The event, set for 7 p.m. at the Elmira Heights Theater, 210 E. 14th St., brings together ‘talking heads’ from the left and right sides of the country’s political discourse, along with an audience who Coleman encourages to participate in the conversation.


He said that level of participation has increased over time since the first event he hosted, which was in October 2016, just before the most recent presidential election. According to Coleman, about 3,000 people have attended Pundit Nights since then -- some have become regulars, while others may only have attended one event.


The theme for Thursday’s Pundit Night is: "A Nation Divided, the 2020 Election, and the Future of American Politics."


“I think the country is going through a critical moment,” Coleman said of the event and its theme.


Coleman will also discuss whether President Trump should be removed from office.


With decades of experience in political discourse, he’s not naive about what can be accomplished in a single event or a series of them.


“I think [some] people will go to Political Pundit Night with their minds made up, but that’s just the nature of what’s going on in America,” Coleman said.


But he said it’s not really about changing minds.


“I think what we need is for people to try to understand other people’s point of view,” Coleman said.


The panelists for Thursday’s event will be:


• Leader Executive Editor Shawn Vargo


• Elmira Corning NAACP President Georgia Verdier


• Chemung County Democratic Chair Dora Leland


• Former Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli


• Corning City Councilman Frank Coccho


• Political analyst and commentator Tom Reilly


• Jerome Emanuel, executive director of Trade Up Southern Tier


• The Rev. Nathaniel Wright, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Ithaca


• Chemung County Democratic Vice Chair Deborah Lynch


• Former Chemung County Legislator Ken Miller


• Dr. Denis Kingsley of Cornell University


• Frank Acomb, local and national conservative radio talk show host