It is impossible not to notice the rampant divisiveness and polarization across the United States on a myriad of issues. There is an increase in harassment over social media, on our roads, and in schools. People indicate that it is affecting their level of civic engagement, professional life, personal relationships, and their own health.
To help counter this alarming trend and focus on rebuilding respect and civility, the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) launched the Initiative to Revive Civility. NICD, is a nonpartisan center for public dialogue, engagement, research and policy, seeking to transform incivility and political dysfunction to strengthen American democracy. NICD, with roots in Ohio through its civility training for state legislatures, selected Ohio to be one of four states to implement the national initiative in a comprehensive manner. This initiative joins the tremendous work that is already happening in the state by many like Beyond Civility, the Ohio Civility Consortium and the Thomas Moyer Legacy Fund.
Some of the goals of the grassroots initiative are to increase awareness about the role of civil discourse, teach skills to further constructive conversations and support efforts to use this framework to address self-identified community issues.
Jim Petro, former Ohio Attorney General and Yvette McGee Brown, Partner at Jones Day and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice, are co-chairs of the Ohio initiative. The co-chairs remind us that civility is not about trying to change or influence the other person. It is learning to listen across differences for understanding and to communicate in ways that do not attack, disrupt, or damage relationships, so that collectively we create a community that respects and represents diverse perspectives.
Ethics and civility are tenets of the legal profession. While this initiative is not aimed at any one profession, those involved in the legal profession are uniquely positioned to help deal with complex problems by embracing and modeling civility and respect and encouraging others to do so.
Revive Civility Ohio is supporting efforts to rebuild trust between the media and the public, helping public and private entities host conversations and trainings on civil discourse, asking elected officials to conduct themselves in a civil and respectful manner, and having individuals make personal commitments to civility. Various tools, such as the Text/Talk platform (for youth or adults) and discussion guides, provide people with resources to engage individually and collectively in reviving civility and respect in Ohio.
NICD has been working with the League of Women Voters, Ohio Humanities Council, Ray C. Bliss Institute, Thomas Moyer Legacy Fund, Your Voice Ohio, Ohio Council of Churches, local Rotary Clubs, and a multitude of universities, schools, and local organizations. There are even requests to assist city councils in creating and respectful environments that foster improved council member hearings and deliberations.
Yvette McGee Brown and Jim Petro believe that powerful things happen, when people with disparate fundamental beliefs come together and truly listen to one other. If individuals can relate to each other as neighbors, friends, extended family and community members, then we can find mutual understanding for the future of our children and all Ohio citizens.For more information about Ohio's Initiative to Revive Civility, contact Lauren Litton at ReviveCivilityOH@ispconsults.com, check out Facebook @revivecivilityohio, or visit www.revivecivility.org.