Introduction to The Civility Blog

Elevation of dome of U.S. Capitol, 1859
Elevation of dome of U.S. Capitol, 1859

Welcome to The Civility Blog. In this, our inaugural post, we hear from the founders of the Institute for Civility in Government — Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath — about their vision for this space, and how it contributes to the larger mission of the organization.

At its simplest, The Civility Blog is a venue for keeping Institute members, interested readers, and the public at large apprised of our new projects and upcoming events around the United States. But it is more than that, too. The Civility Blog is here to inform readers about the latest civility news and dialogue on and off the web. It is here as a venue in which Institute members and guests can speak deliberately and thoughtfully about civility in government, the corporate sector, and everyday life. And it is here as a venue for spirited and civil dialogue where you, as readers, can create community and contribute to meaningful change.

The Civility Blog is an ongoing project. And as it unfolds, there will be time for some more specific discussion of how you can contribute a comment, or even a post. But for now, it is enough to read about why we have a Civility Blog at all.

From Cassandra Dahnke:

When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” It was a lesson that I learned well, and one I have tried to follow ever since. Unfortunately, it is also a bit of wisdom that seems to go by the wayside far too often.

In recent years, the boundaries of appropriate behavior – particularly in the midst of disagreement – have stretched to the breaking point. Verbal abuse and personal attacks have become not only acceptable, but rhetorical strategies. Too often do we concentrate on speaking rather than listening as we focus on launching (or diffusing) the next attack. Lost is respect or care for our fellow citizens, and the possibility of collaborative effort, much less genuine friendship.

And so we strive for civility, because to do anything else is to give up on decency — to forfeit all that is possible when we listen without degrading, discern without prejudice, and work together to build up, rather than separating to tear down.

This blog is the most recent of our many initiatives. We hope and trust it will become a venue where civility will have not one voice, but many. This is a venue not for private gain but public good, and one where we seek to make our disagreements assets to be explored rather than problems to be overcome. The conversation will not always be easy, but we hope it will be constructive.

Welcome to this space! We are glad you are here!

And from Tomas Spath:

When the founders of the United States and the framers of our constitution nudged the pendulum away from monarchy and toward a new democracy, the goal of some, at least, was to create a government of the people that would be governed by the people, and for the people. This means that we would all share the responsibility to guide our nation.

But the question that we must ask today is: do we the people have enough information to make good decisions? To run the government?

In our time, the United States is on information overload. At any moment, we have access to news from anywhere in the world, from any ideological point of view. There is no place, and no position, that is away from the Internet.

Isn’t it a shame, then, that when we have access to so very much, so few of us do anything with it? Perhaps it is this flood of data that paralyzes us into inaction. Perhaps that is why we stifle ourselves and allow others to lead the way.

The Institute for Civility in Government is a grassroots movement that is committed to the idea that we all need to be more involved in the governing process at some level — whether locally, in the statehouse, or in Washington D.C. Ours is a nation in which we do all share the responsibility to govern, and by engaging and sharing ideas, we can make things better in our cities, our states, and our country as a whole.

So welcome. Here is a safe place to develop the ideas that will make us a better people, and a more perfect Union.

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