Civil Discourse

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“Thank you very much for this initiative. It’s what we need in our country. I feel like the public is really crying out for civil discourse.” – Jeni James Arndt, Colorado State Representative

I am honored to be part of the National Institute of Civil Discourse as a trained facilitator.  The Institution receives requests from legislatures across the country to conduct trainings by legislators for legislators in civility.  We work in bi-partisan teams with an equal number of Rs and Ds in pairs. Last year, eight of us worked with the entire legislature of Idaho. This year, we conducted our workshop for the legislature in Minnesota.

I take this work very seriously and it will continue to be a priority for as long as I serve.

More information on civility 

The freedom to express oneself, to explore alternative theories and beliefs, and to openly criticize ideas are all essential components in retaining our fundamental freedoms. As former president, Harry S. Truman said, “Once a government [or a people] is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

Recent events at campaign rallies have not only threatened to limit America’s freedom of speech, but have resulted in the physical violence between those expressing different opinions. In light of many such incidents occurring at rallies in Fayetteville, St. Louis and Tucson, it is imperative that we highlight the fact that uncivil words have led to uncivil actions. These incidences of physical violence are not happening in a silo; they are the direct result of the nature of the rhetoric expressed by those competing for our nation’s highest office.

Core research conducted by the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) has determined that while people have different standards for identifying political activity, nearly everyone agrees that threatening physical harm and using racial, religious, ethnic or sexual slurs is uncivil.

Recent polling by Weber Shandwick found that 95 percent of Americans think civility is a problem, with 74 percent reporting that it has gotten worse in recent years. Seventy percent think that incivility has risen to “crisis” levels, an increase from 2014. Furthermore, many parents have expressed embarrassment that they aren’t able to watch the debates with their children for fear of showing them bad behavior, bad language, and bad role models who are nevertheless in the running to lead the country.

In conclusion, NICD was founded to preserve our First Amendment rights by eliminating political dysfunction and incivility, and allowing diverse viewpoints to be heard and discussed. The increasing examples of incivility on the campaign trail are a rising threat to America’s ability to preserve those rights. With this threat reaching a crisis level, thousands of groups and individuals are beginning to plead for the restoration of civility in our political dialogue. Left unchecked, our lack of civility in all walks of life will compromise our freedoms of safety, mutual respect, and basic humanity. NICD’s commitment is to take action now, and be a force for improving our nation’s political dialogue. We welcome your participation.

Revive Civility Campaign

The rising incivility in the 2016 campaign is concerning, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) believes now more than ever we need to focus on how we can respectfully share different opinions.

Our Revive Civility campaign will focus on defining civility, fostering conversations that will help candidates and elected officials transcend their political differences, and empowering the public to hold politicians accountable for their actions.

There are three essential components to this campaign:

1. Standards of Conduct for Campaigns: NICD, in collaboration with political leaders, state legislators, leading researchers and civility experts, is rolling out a Standards of Conduct for Campaigns. The Standards should serve as a guide for candidates, the media, and the public as they bear witness to the election season. As the nation becomes consumed by the heated rhetoric of a divisive campaign season, having clear, research-backed definitions is essential to building a dialogue on this important issue.
2. Citizen Toolkits: We are empowering citizens to get off the sidelines. We must call on our elected officials to act civilly, denounce examples of bad behavior, and not compromise on this foundational element of our democracy. A Citizen Toolkit will provide actions citizens can take to get off the sidelines and start Reviving Civility in our politics and everyday lives.
3. Text, Talk, Revive Civility: Through an innovative text messaging platform, Text, Talk, Revive Civility will bring together thousands of citizens across the country to educate them on how civility strengthens our democracy, how to advance a more civil discourse, and how to hold elected officials and candidates accountable when they do not uphold our ideals.

We are currently enlisting partners to stand with us in a national effort to revive civility, because our democracy depends on it.

Becoming a Revive Civility Partner

Join us in the campaign to Revive Civility. To become a partner, your organization agrees to share the Revive Civility campaign with your network (using the materials included in this toolkit) and in exchange is added to our website and materials as an organizational partner.
To become a partner, please send your organization description and high-resolution logo to Raquel Goodrich at rgoodrich@email.arizona.edu.

Revive Civility Launch

The campaign to Revive Civility will launch on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. On that date, partners should send the Revive Civility messaging to their networks, asking them to become a Citizen for Reviving Civility. The campaign will run through the November elections, at which time the campaign will continue on with a more general civility focus.

Campaign Messaging

This toolkit provides sample communications materials for partner’s use. Please promote Revive Civility among your networks on a variety of different platforms. Based on the types of networks you have, this could include blog posts, social media messages, eblasts, incorporating the campaign on your website, etc.