Aug. 29, 2012 at 3:27 PM ET
A strange thing happened just outside the Republican convention: A civil conversation about the economy broke out.
Media doyenne Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post website is closely aligned with progressive causes, hosted a panel discussion alongside the convention in Tampa, Fla., with a distinctly nonpartisan tone around the theme of how to solve the job crisis.
Despite the nearby convention, the event, hosted by the Huffington Post, NBC News and Microsoft, took a mostly neutral tone, focusing on solutions and successes rather than stoking party flames. A similar event will be held in conjunction with next week's Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C.
"Having a job is not just about economic security, it’s about emotional security and cultural security for the country," said moderator Tom Brokaw, an NBC News special correspondent.
Huffington said the purpose of the event was to tell people that they “can no longer be bystanders” in finding ways to end the jobs crisis.
The stubbornly high unemployment rate, currently 8.3 percent, has provided Republican challenger Mitt Romney with one of his most potent weapons in his race to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama.
Panelists returned often to the theme of education and its role in driving the economy.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, suggested that if his state could get private businesses to divulge more of their plans, he could push schools to match their needs.
"If you can forecast and move academics to be consistent with training people (in) what they are born to do … it will be a tremendous benefit to our state," he said.
Kasich also pointed to predominantly African-American urban centers as an overlooked area of growth, and said entertainer Jay-Z's involvement with the Brooklyn Nets could serve as an inspiration.
Kasich provided the lone exception to the generally nonpartisan tenor of the discussion when he took a brief swipe at business regulations that drew an applause from the crowd.
Scott Case, founder of an advocacy group called Startup America, pointed to the value of entrepreneurs.
“If you look at the last 30 years, all the net new jobs were created by companies that were less than five years old," he said, arguing that such commercial successes should be celebrated more widely, not just in Silicon Valley and New York.
More money and business news: