The University of Arizona has responded to the Tucson shooting by launching a high-profile National Institute for Civil Discourse, with former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush as honorary chairs. At first the idea of responding to bullets with an institute sounds a tad crazy, but I suspect that this kind of response is the only way to create lasting change.
The University, by the way, isn’t claiming that our un-civil discourse caused the shooting.
(T)he shootings created a space for people to focus on civility, and the Institute is building on that positive outcome of a tragic event.
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is one of the honorary co-chairs. His thinking mirrors my own:
“Civil discourse does not require people to change their values, but should provide an environment that all points of view are heard and acknowledged,” said Daschle. “If our nation is to successfully address its problems, we must unite behind shared values and principles and bring people together to develop solutions.”
And from the institute’s own Question and Answer page, an explanation of what this new body will do.
Politics is about effective governing, not just winning and losing. A great democracy depends on a respect for difference and willingness to compromise, most importantly for the good of generations of Americans to come. The oath that Athenian citizens took required them to leave the city “not worse, but better” than they found it. We believe this as well.
If we think only about winning or losing and we demonize our political opponents, then we all lose. And what’s the good in that?