A new institute at Ohio State University will focus on teaching elected officials how to better understand their positions and the importance of civil discourse. Lawmakers included $5 million in the budget to establish the institute. We heartily applaud this effort. Read more HERE.
A recent editorial from the Christian Science Monitor addresses the challenge with incivility in town halls, a relatively new trend that we believe is not helpful for our nation. Town halls are, after all, an integral component of American Democracy. They are places where debate can and should be passionate, and people who are angry with their representatives should have the right to speak out. But the level of incivility has reached a boiling point– too many times no progress can be made on an issue because the desire to vent overcomes the opportunity to hear ideas and compromise on problems. The Monitor editorial suggests a play book to keep that from happening. In short, we can find ways to let all voices be heard while still keeping town halls civil. Read more HERE
The recent conflict between President Trump and the MSNBC broadcasting team of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski highlight just how important it is to bring back civility to our public discourse. Neither side in this latest fight are, in our opinion, squeaky clean. But both had opportunities here to be firm in position but respectful to the opponent. Elected officials and the media are both continually in positions to demonstrate to citizens that there is virtue and value in passionately disagreeing with the opposing view, but respectfully. If they can do that consistently, many citizens will start to change their behavior to be more civil. That is the type of change that can bring about the healing this nation needs. Read about it HERE
In this clip from a talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Arthur Brooks puts the problem of our polarized electorate and government in a context that enables each of us to think differently about it and thereby participate in the healing process. This is the kind of change in mindset that ultimately drives change in experience, process, systems and ultimately, the magnitude of progress. Watch Here!
Very inciteful point here by progressive political commentator and think tank Movement Vision Lab CEO Sally Kohn, who was also a Fox News Contributor. Political correctness is fine but of no value to anyone without what Ms. Kohn calls “emotional correctness”. That is, the willingness to understand an opposing position and why one’s opponent has that view. Listening is the critical skill in finding common ground. But without the emotional correctness Ms. Kohn describes, listening is not possible. Everyone has the capability to listen, but we hope more will demonstrate that capability and “seek first to understand, then to be understood” as Stephen Covey put it in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.
Joan Blades is a co-founder of MoveOn.Org, widely recognized as a standard bearer for progressive politics. However, Ms. Blades is also what we call a “common grounder” having co-founded Living Room Conversations, an organization dedicated to transforming “distrust and discord into understanding — paving the way for collaborative solutions”.
In this piece from the Christian Science Monitor (Common Ground Committee’s media partner) Ms. Blades elegantly makes a compelling case for building relationships that enable the discovery of common ground. Bravo, Ms. Blades!
Few topics are as heated today as that of immigration. And while the controversy centers around a ban on incoming residents of seven predominately Muslim nations, the conversation has led to a national debate on who has the right to live here and who should be denied.
The Boy Scouts of America – no stranger to other current disputes – offers each summer an International Camp Staff Program where scouts from around the world are invited to lead a summer BSA camp. It is positioned as an opportunity for scouts from other countries to share cultures and becomes a chance to show American openness and hospitality. Many of these camps are in states that support President Trump’s immigration policies and have less exposure to immigrants than the coastal states. This kind of work nurtures the “light” we seek and helps cool the “heat” we want to purge from public discourse.
Bi-partisan admiration expressed for Senator Hatch suggests there is “light” in the Senate. Read the article HERE
To make progress when an issue is emotionally charged it is crucial to find “low-hanging fruit” – solutions that are palatable to both sides and are likely to have a positive impact.
This piece from the New York Times does just that on the issue of how to prevent gun deaths. It lays out 29 gun control ideas in a way that shows how popular they are among the public and the degree to which experts in the field believe those ideas, if implemented, would be effective. Ideas with high popularity and high effectiveness are great “low-hanging fruit” possibilities. We applaud this kind research and reporting because it enables people – including leaders and decision-makers – to go beyond talking points. Of course, emotional arguments without the facts will still be made. But armed with this kind of data, it is easier to cut through those arguments and make the case for meaningful change.
Progress on important and divisive issues requires many things. But first and foremost is the belief that progress is possible. Without that, there is no reason to engage, no reason to listen, no reason to do the hard work required to move forward. So it is encouraging to us to see the MacArthur Foundation’s recent “Perspectives” post by Julia M. Stasch, “Solutions Are Possible: Post-Election Poll Indicates”. The net-net, regardless of region, race, education or preferred presidential candidate people overwhelmingly believe it is possible to find solutions to the most pressing problems we face. That’s a great way to be thinking as we get set for 2017, a year that will undoubtedly test people’s resolve to be civil in public discourse and willing to hear facts and positions presented by those they disagree with.