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Importance Of Civility Endures

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011


When George Washington composed his Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, he advised, “every act done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those who are present.”
On this, his birthday, it is appropriate to fast forward to 2011 and another set of principles put forward by the United States Conference of Mayors.
At the recent annual meeting, 150 mayors from across the country signed a Civility Accord proposed by Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup. The one-page document was prompted by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others at a public event.
The pledge, also available on line for mayors to sign, asks for a commitment to the following principles:
  • Respect the right of all Americans to hold different opinions;
  • Avoid rhetoric intended to humiliate, de-legitimatize, or question the patriotism of those whose opinions are different from ours;
  • Strive to understand differing perspectives;
  • Choose words carefully;
  • Speak truthfully without accusation, and avoid distortion;
  • Speak out against violence, prejudice, and incivility in all their forms, whenever and wherever they occur.”
The efforts to remind us of the importance of civility in our society are especially important as partisan differences often overtake dialog. While many of the admonitions George Washington wrote seem antiquated, here is another we would call a best practice: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”


Tags: civility, George Washington, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, United States Conference of Mayors

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