I missed President Obama’s speech last night, but in looking at the transcript this morning, I was struck by the things he had to say about civility:

“What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together… If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

I think that’s exactly right. I disagree with a lot of people (including President Obama a good portion of the time), but that doesn’t make those people my mortal enemies. Here’s hoping we Americans get better at disagreeing with one another civilly and respectfully. It’s a very important life-skill and one that is vital to the health of our democracy.

  • gina
    3:05 PM, 13 January 2011

    Great excerpt! And just the same sorts of things we try to teach our children, as we sort out living room disputes about whose turn it is, or who knows the rules better or which movie we should watch. My daughter chose Charlotte’s Web the other day, and my son’s response was, “I don’t agree with that.” They were able to settle it without incident, though. It would be good if all the grown ups could find a way to set an example of civility as well.

  • Jess
    4:22 PM, 13 January 2011

    I raise my (grape juice) glass to that.

  • sally apokedak
    12:19 AM, 14 January 2011

    Or we could rassle, pull hair, and poke eyes. Like the feechiefolk. Rassle around all rowdy like, then sit down and have a drink.

  • Dan Kulp
    2:52 PM, 14 January 2011

    The art of debate has been covered with the graffiti of spin.
    (This hit me the other day & I will be green & recycle it.)
    I fully agree with your post. Thanks.

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