That is why the activism by the students of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (and the millions nationwide who joined them) is so impressive. I hope you had a chance to listen to some of the speakers at the D.C. rally and take note at how respectful they were of those who obviously disagree. They aren’t turning cars over or breaking laws to make their point. They are focused on the right way to truly have an impact and, so far, have put many of their adult counterparts to shame when it comes to engaging civilly without personal attacks or distractions. They are taking their case to the American people and pushing any and all who agree to make their message heard in policy-making and on election day. I hope to see their approach and their tone continue as they work to engage elected officials through town hall events and other advocacy efforts. This will have lasting implications, not only for the gun policy discussion but also for the future engagement of a generation that’s beginning to find its voice and take a more active role in shaping the world around it.
That is also why I took notice of a piece written by David Brooks of the New York Times, entitled “Trust and respect first, then compromise on gun control,” published in a recent edition of the Manhattan Mercury. I have long liked Mr. Brooks, a sound, but sane conservative from the old school, someone who is always respectful of others. In this article, he shared about a process for bringing together a mixture of far right conservatives and clear liberals, with the goal of building respect among each other. Only after that is achieved can you have any chance of working out your differences and coming to some compromise that serves the greater good.
Clearly Washington D.C. could use some help, and this seems to flow down into other levels of government and into our international relations as well. You might have noticed in representing the United States at the winter Olympics, Vice President Pence chose to totally snub the sister of the President of North Korea. Now that might at first blush seem very logical. But when you think about their growing capacity to do us serious harm, maybe a step or two of respect might have been a good investment for future successful diplomacy. But enough from me. I really want you to take time to read the Brooks article. It is most timely on a variety of fronts and if applied could make a difference in resolving, or at least taking mini steps, on some of our major challenges where there are polar differences and little or no respect for each other.
Fortunately, the task of reviving civility has received more attention in recent years (with different organizations and resources coming together), and perhaps it can gain more traction as we continue the task of strengthening our democracy for the 21st century. Each of our daily exchanges will help write the story. But the true test will be our ability to come together and solve problems—both big and small—today and into the future.