May 24, 2011
Civility in Civics: A Community Conversation in Muncie, IN

On May 17, Indiana Humanities and the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University helped convene Civility in Civics: A Community Conversation, in Muncie, Ind. The first in the year-long Community Conversations series, this event was designed to encourage Muncie residents to become more civil in meetings with public officials and with each other. The conversation featured a presentation from former member of the United States House of Representatives, Lee Hamilton. Hamilton spoke on civility and how it impacts dialogue with each other and elected officials (see a video, here). Following Hamilton’s speech the audience broke into smaller discussion groups to address civility in the Muncie community. Participants were then asked to write down some of their thoughts and ideas from the conversation. Some of the responses are listed below:

On what they will share with their friends after attending the community conversation:

  • “That we can all work on being more civil with the people we come in contact with and our elected officials that we hear speak.”
  • “That civility begins with ourselves; we need to respect those whom we disagree with, even while talking to those whom we agree with.”
  • “That being civil in all areas of your life and respectful to others is very important in fostering communication and people working together to solve common problems.”

On what the audience needs to learn:

  • “How to hear people with whom I passionately disagree with. To let them speak at length without turning off my ‘hearing.’”
  • “To continue to learn to listen and respect others point of view. Don’t take things personal and be patient.”

On what the audience commits to:

  • “More participation, and reminding myself and other people how vitally important civility is to success in solving the serious problems in our own community and nation.”
  • “Working to bring civility to our local government and to ask and expect our elected officials and the people who elected them to be civil and to practice respect to everyone.”

On what the audience thought was the most valuable aspect of the event:

  • “It was gratifying to talk with others in public and in small group sessions about how to address the rampant incivility in our community.”
  • “Listening to viewpoints of other people; understanding the problems and feelings of those who are different from me.”
  • “The topic–it’s very important to make our own local government more responsive to the people who elected them.”
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