Too often, all the American people see of Congress is hyper-partisan bickering on cable TV. What they don’t see when the cameras are turned off? Many of us are friends. The policy disputes? They aren’t personal, even when passionate.
We are passionate because we all love our country. We want to serve the people who sent us to Washington to get things done for the American people. And we believe strongly in what we stand for. But we can disagree without being disagreeable. And the way we carry ourselves in our public debates is how we are represented to the American people – no matter how cordial we are behind closed doors.
We can, and must, do better.
Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, recently released a report on the state of civility in America. It found that incivility has reached “crisis levels” in our country.
These findings, sadly, are not surprising. Particularly disappointing was that a majority of Americans believe incivility in our politics encourages general incivility in society, which deters citizens from engaging in public service. Incivility can lead to intimidation, threats, harassment, cyberbullying, discrimination and violence. In the wake of the attack on our fellow members of Congress at a Congressional Baseball Game practice of all places, the need for action could not be more urgent.
To try and disrupt this troubling trend, we have put forward bipartisan legislation, H. Res 400, creating a National Day of Civility. It’s one small way to give this issue greater attention and spark greater awareness in communities across the country, and in Washington. The bill has overwhelming bipartisan support, introduced with the backing of nearly every member of our 50 plus person freshman class. As public officials, we have a responsibility to lead by example.
Matthew 7:12 reads “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” It’s the Golden Rule. In our civil discourse, we must strive to disagree without being disagreeable and practice the Golden Rule every day. We look forward to growing support for our effort to recognize July 12 (7/12) as the National Day of Civility.
Words matter. How we treat each other matters. Let’s foster more civility in public discourse – Congress is a great place to start.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.