A Call for Action from the Atlanta Civility Training Workshop

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

Earlier this month, we announced an upcoming Civility Training Workshop in Atlanta, GA, organized by Institute member and civility activist LaRita Reid. The training was a civility-fostering, community-building success. And Institute co-founders Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke have agreed to share some of their thoughts and reactions to what came out of it.

Considering the event, this is what Tomas had to say:

One of the rules featured in our book, Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square: Ten Rules that Count, is that one is powerful. There are dozens of ways, large and small, that one person make a positive difference in the lives of others. And here is one from a woman named LaRita Reid:

Like many people, Ms. Reid understands that in our society, we aren’t necessarily given to treating each other kindly. She wanted to make a difference. So she went online in search of an organization that would help her understand what each of us can do to make life less harrowing for others.

She found the Institute for Civility in Government website. At the time, we were promoting the Citizens’ Civility Symposium to be held in July in Washington D.C. So she got on the telephone to us, joined the Institute, and signed up to attend.

LaRita returned to Atlanta from the Symposium with a mission to create a civility movement in her hometown. She talked with friends and garnered support, and she was responsible for organizing the civility training event that was held September 21.

The result of her effort is a growing nucleus of people in Atlanta who are committed to civility in the governing process, and civility in their community.

One person is powerful. One person can be the difference in their community just as LaRita is being a difference in hers. And you can be the difference, too. Learn more about Civility Training, and contact us to set one up in your area.

And here is Cassandra’s reaction:

Numbers Count!

The attendees of our recent Civility Training Workshop in Atlanta came from a broad cross-section of the community, and represented a variety of backgrounds. Some came because they had heard about it through their church. Others were educational professionals who had heard about it from the school at which they teach. There were, among others, a state legislator, a candidate for mayor, and an engaged citizen who had heard about the workshop at a town hall meeting.

The broader the range of experience that people bring to the seminar, the richer the observations are during the participatory exercises that we do together, and the more we learn from one another.

But the critical piece of these workshops is not just what we learn from the activities we do, but the way they foster engagement with, and memberships in, the Institute.

It is important to raise awareness of the value of civility in the governing process. And it is important to teach people the skillset they need to maintain and foster a greater civility in difficult and often conflicting situations. All of this must happen.

But the culture of our country will not shift from one of polarization and animosity to one of mutual respect and collaborative effort just on these initiatives.  We must make our voices heard. And our voices carry more weight together than they do alone.

Who do you know who needs to join the Institute?

If you want to learn more about Civility Training Workshops through the Institute for Civility in Government — including how to set one up in your area — click here for more information.

If you want to add your voice to the chorus calling for civil discourse, join the Institute today.

Or, to support the Institute in its mission to facilitate dialogue and teach respect, click here to make a donation.

Upcoming: Civility Training Workshop in Atlanta, GA

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.

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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.