Jane C. Edmonds, a senior fellow in the Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional Studies, proudly iden­ti­fies her­self as a lib­eral Demo­crat, which is why she puz­zled so many friends and col­leagues by not only sup­porting former Mass­a­chu­setts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nom­inee for pres­i­dent, but by speaking out in sup­port of him at last week’s Repub­lican National Convention.

I know I may face crit­i­cism for being at the RNC, but what I want to say, ‘This is America, we should be able to make up our minds and sup­port someone on our own,” said Edmonds, who served in the admin­is­tra­tions of gov­er­nors Romney and Michael Dukakis, now a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence at North­eastern. “I felt priv­i­leged to be at RNC and speak from my heart, saying what I believe.”

In her speech on Thursday, Edmonds described Romney to del­e­gates as a ded­i­cated leader who worked hard to increase the number of women in state government.

When I first met Gov. Romney, I was struck by his humanity, his grace, his kind manner,” she said, describing her inter­view ahead of being named the state Sec­re­tary of Work­force Devel­op­ment. “I could tell imme­di­ately just by our inter­ac­tion that he is the real thing — authentic. He struck me and now as honest, trans­parent and inclusive.”

Edmonds said deliv­ering the speech was a true honor, but she described another event — a ses­sion on women in gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics called “Uncon­ven­tional Women” that drew par­tic­i­pants from across the aisle — as an eye-​​opening oppor­tu­nity to con­nect with people she may never have oth­er­wise inter­acted with. (A sim­ilar ses­sion will be held at the Demo­c­ratic National Con­ven­tion this week in Char­lotte, N.C.)

Like most people, I think I have to work hard not to label any one group and paint with a broad brush,” Edmonds said. “One of those groups is the Tea Party; I don’t know if there is any one group whose views seem fur­ther away from what I believe. But it turns out that once you actu­ally sit down and talk to people, you get a very dif­ferent take­away. You’re hum­bled knowing there are many view­points and ways to think about an issue, and soon you’re finding common ground with a group you con­sid­ered your­self so dia­met­ri­cally opposed to.”

Those dia­logues hap­pened across the con­ven­tion, she said, in the cor­ri­dors of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which hosted the event, and over meals in hotels and nearby restaurants.

It was an oppor­tu­nity to say, ‘Tell me more. Where are you really coming from?’” Edmonds said. “Being able to ask ques­tions and have a con­ver­sa­tion was a true joy for me. I came back thinking the expe­ri­ence had truly stretched my mind.”

Edmonds said she is con­fi­dent that America can thrive under the lead­er­ship of whichever pres­i­den­tial can­di­date the public selects; what is more impor­tant, she says, is that the country — both its leaders and its cit­i­zens — works to become more open to dia­logue, inclu­sive­ness and an open exchange of ideas.

There are some very hard divides along party lines,” Edmonds said. “I’ve been a Demo­crat all my life, and I’ve been in pol­i­tics nearly as long. More than ever before, I’m seeing these divides that keep people from talking to each other. This idea of civil dis­course may seem like an anti­quated phrase, but it’s exactly what we need right now for our country.”