I had the opportunity this week to speak to a large group gathered to discuss the importance of civil discourse as a tool for social change. As you know, civility is a subject near and dear to my heart.
So I had to start by telling a story.
One of my staffers related to me that she had told her young daughter about the upcoming event.
"What's it about?" her daughter asked.
"Well, it's a discussion about civil discourse and how important it is for bringing about social change," she told her child.
Her 10-year old looked at her with that completely blank face we often see with our children. She realized that her daughter had no idea what she had just said.
"Basically -- it's just a conversation about the importance of speaking kindly to each other to try to figure out the answers to some really tough problems."
She saw the light bulb go on in her daughter's head -- but was still shocked by the purity and innocence of the declaration to follow.
"Well, that's easy," the little girl replied. "Everyone knows things go better if you talk nicely to people. Besides, that's just what you're supposed to do."
How is it that a 10-year old has figured out something those of us in Washington can't seem to get straight?
We have big problems in our economy, our society, and our world. And regardless of political party, we need level-headed, responsible, and respectful people, sitting down for fact-filled discussions about the best way to move forward. No ready-made sound bites for the local news. No political food fights. No baseless accusations.
Our constituents deserve it. Our country needs it. Our situation demands it.
Civility must serve as a foundation to formulate positive and productive plans. Before we can heal our sick economy, fix our social problems, and rebuild the public's faith in us -- we must begin with kindness and respect for one another.
Besides, in the words of that wise 10-year old, "Everyone knows, it's just what you're supposed to do."