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‘We Have to Each Start By Looking in the Mirror.’ Matthew McConaughey on the Political Divide in America

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Political leaders can’t singlehandedly bridge the deep divisions that have formed in American society, says Matthew McConaughey.

During a TIME 100 Talks discussion, the 51-year-old actor spoke with Edward Felsenthal, Editor-in-Chief and CEO of TIME, about America’s fractured politics and what gives him hope for the future. “I think what this year’s election did is expose what we all kind of didn’t want to say out loud: that there is a great divide and there has been a great divide,” he said. “My hunch is that moving forward in this time where people have run to the extremes is that there’s a common denominator of values that we can all agree on that are bipartisan and nondenominational.”

McConaughey, whose memoir, Greenlights, was released on Oct. 20, went on to explain why he considers being selfless and being selfish to be the same thing when it comes to creating more unity within communities right now. “I think that we should really work on breaking down what we consider to be a contradiction, which is the selfish choice and the selfless choice—the choice for ‘I’ and the choice for ‘we.’ I don’t believe those are as contradictory as we make them out to be,” he said. “There is a choice that I believe you can make that is also best for the most amount of people…Responsibility can actually give us freedom.”

And it’s the responsibility of every American, McConaughey says, to try to do their part to help resolve these political differences. “We have to understand that our leaders can’t do it for us,” he said. “Whoever our leaders are, whatever they say to get us off the [proverbial] porch, we have to remember that we’re the ones who have the work to do. We have to each start by looking in the mirror…It starts with you and me and the damn mirror.”

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com