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Coffee Party USA is an organization that holds many values in common with the Institute. They are a non-partisan, grassroots organization with the goals of promoting cultural changes to address political disengagement and ideological polarization, and encouraging inclusive, civil, fact-based, solution-oriented dialogue about pressing policy issues.
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A message from Institute for Civility in Government co-founder, Cassandra Dahnke.
Some people think it never happens. They think that Republicans and Democrats cannot work together, or even have a civil conversation. But those people are mistaken. It does happen – and could happen more if more people would speak out for civility.
For years the Institute for Civility in Government has sponsored Congressional Student Forums. These bring two members of Congress from opposite sides of the political aisle together on college campuses around the country in order to model civil and respectful conversations with students and faculty on whatever issues the students bring to the table. The conversations are lively and informative. And they are critically important to our civic process.
Congressional Student Forums set an important precedent for students’ future civic involvement – they set a high standard for citizen empowerment and participation, and a high standard for civility and respect. But they are important, too, for building collegial relationships among members of Congress who have far too few opportunities to spend time together, sharing ideas rather than beating each other up with them.
Historically, the Institute has been able — at best — to host only one Congressional Student Forum per semester. This is in part because university schedules are highly complicated, and in part because members of Congress are very busy. But making the time for these events is not impossible. And when it all comes together, the experience is an exceptional one for all involved.
This spring, the Institute has scheduled not one, but three Congressional Student Forums: at Lone Star College, North Harris (Houston) with Representatives Kevin Brady and Gene Green; at the University of Missouri, Kansas City with Representatives Emanuel Cleaver and Kevin Yoder; and at University of Texas, San Antonio with Representatives Henry Cuellar and Lamar Smith.
Why the increased success? It is because these members of Congress have made it a priority to make it happen. They worked to make it happen. They wanted it. And they accomplished it.
And more members of Congress might, too, if they knew that their constituents wanted them to participate in events like this: events that are bipartisan and civil, that are not debates, not contents to see who wins and who loses — but opportunities to share different ideas and philosophies so that we can all consider them more carefully.
It is in events like these where conversation is created and new ideas and relationships are born.
Our vision is to grow interest in civility and membership in the Institute large enough to shift the culture — so that one day, when members of Congress are elected, they make scheduling Congressional Student Forums a priority, not an afterthought. Can you imagine what a difference that would make in our political discourse? Our communities? Our nation?
It can happen. But it needs your support. Tell your member of Congress that you care about civility. Join the Institute today. Keep the movement growing.
For those who do not know, Congressional Student Forums are hour-and-a-half programs featuring two U.S. Representatives, one Republican and one Democrat, who dialogue (not debate!) about current issues. In this format, it is the university students who set the agenda through their questions to the members of Congress, allowing them a particularly empowering opportunity to interact directly with their elected officials.
The Institute has been holding Congressional Student Forums since 1999, and has worked with more than a dozen members of Congress to offer students an up-close understanding of the governing process that also models civility.
This week, the Congressional Student Forum at the University of Missouri, Kansas City will consist of a conversation between Representatives Emanuel Cleaver and Kevin Yoder. Cleaver, who is a United Methodist Pastor, has represented Missouri’s 5th District since 2005. Yoder has represented Kansas’s 3rd District since 2011. Both congressional districts include Kansas City itself.
The Congressional Student Forum at the University of Texas, San Antonio will feature Representatives Lamar Smith and Henry Cuellar. Smith has represented Texas’s Texas’s 21st District since 1987, and Cuellar has represented its 28th since 2005. And both Representatives’ territory includes parts of San Antonio.
The University of Missouri, Kansas City Forum will begin at 3:30 PM on Monday, April 21, and will be moderated by Institute co-founder Tomas Spath. The University of Texas, San Antonio Forum, moderated by Cassandra Dahnke, begins at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, April 22.
Congressional Student Forums are free of charge for students, and usually not open to the public.
This March 7 and 8, Institute co-founders Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke will be speakers at the first annual Civics, Civility, and Diversity Conference in Killeen Texas. The theme of this year’s conference is “Eliminating Civics, Civility, and Diversity Inequities through Education,” and it will focus specifically on the Dreyfuss Civics Curriculum and Civics Clubs as a model for producing discourse on culturally relevant diversity issues, and developing curricula and educational policies that improve civics, civility, and diversity through education.
Conference keynote speakers at the Civics, Civility, and Diversity Conference will include Martha Kanter (former Undersecretary of Education), Frank Ashley (Chancellor Emeritus of Texas A&M), Russ Porter (Associate Provost at Texas A&M, and co-author of the Dreyfuss Civics Curriculum), and Richard Dreyfuss himself, whose talk will be titled “Civics & Civility in Education: A Call for Pre-Partisanship.”
The conference will also include breakout sessions on reinvigorating civics and civility in the classroom and improving diversity education, in which participants will form recommendations to present to the conference as a whole.
The conference will take place at the Killeen Civics and Conference Center in Killeen, TX — Registration costs $295, or $55 for students. For more information about the Civics, Civility, and Diversity conference, you can find their official website here. Here, you can find the conference schedule. And here is a link to their flier.
We are pleased to announce that on September 21, Institute co-founders Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke will be conducting a Civility Training Workshop in the Atlanta area.
For those who are not aware, participants in Civility Training Workshops learn what civility makes possible, and what incivility prevents. The half-day program includes four sessions that feature tips on cultivating and maintaining civility in the workplace and in life, as well as activities and discussions that explore issues of:
How to have productive conversations across seemingly insurmountable ideological divides.
How to become an active listener.
How to take advantage of ideological diversity to increase productivity and achieve goals.
And what the Institute for Civility in Government can accomplish as people join this growing movement.
This Civility Training workshop will take place on Saturday, September 21 from 9 am to 2 pm at the Holiday Inn Express Airport at: 4601 Best Road, College Park, GA 30337. Admission to the event is $50 per person. For registration and details, please contact LaRita Reid via email at [email protected], or by telephone at (404) 326-7011.
A reminder, if you plan to be in Washington D.C. next week. Monday, July 22 and Tuesday, July 23, the Institute will be holding its second national Citizens’ Civility Symposium at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.
This year’s Symposium will feature keynote addresses from Institute founders Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath, as well as two panels: the first on connections between civility on the local level and cooperation on Capitol Hill; and the second featuring current and former members of Congress speaking about their experiences with civility, and working across the aisle, in Washington D.C.
The Symposium begins at 2:30 pm on Monday, July 22, and includes a keynote address and one panel. And it continues into the afternoon on July 23, beginning with a continental breakfast before events commence, and ending with a short how-to for taking the civility message directly to the offices of senators and representatives.
Congressional sponsors of the Citizens’ Civility Symposium include twenty-seven members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle, including Emanuel Cleaver and Shelley Moore Capito, Lamar Smith, John Lewis, and many others.
A complete list of sponsors may be found here, and the schedule of events is online here.
Click here for simple and secure online registration. The event costs $85 for the general public, and is free to Members of Congress and their staffs.