Students gathered at Stewart Middle School to learn how to respectfully engage with one another and practice civility in their communities
In a time of increasingly polarized political discourse nationwide, nearly 60 Tacoma youth, ranging in age from 14 to 18, participated in a four-hour civility training conducted by the National Institute of Civil Discourse (NICD) at Stewart Middle School.
The goals of the training included building interest and curiosity in civil discourse; demonstrating what civil conversations look like; practicing communication skills needed for collaboration, conflict resolution and creating change; inspiring further action; and providing the tools and confidence needed for youth to lead future trainings.
“At a time when incivility across the country has reached historic proportions, Americans of all ages feel that the need for civil discourse is more important than ever,” said Carolyn Lukensmeyer of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. “These young leaders learning and championing the values of civility, empathy and respect, are so inspirational and offer us a bright beacon hope for improving the tone of our political discourse in their community and in this country.”
“I am in awe of these young people, their ability to engage constructively in difficult conversations, and their eagerness to put new tools to use. In Tacoma, we believe that our youth should have a voice in the policies we consider as lawmakers,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “We actively encourage their participation and want to equip them with everything they need to engage in productive and meaningful ways. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we all work together to shape the future of our great city.”
The training the youth received is part of a grassroots initiative, “Revive Civility and Respect”, to give community members and leaders across the country solution-oriented actions to call for, and restore, civility in our democracy. Through this initiative, NICD has engaged or trained thousands of people in civil discourse skills to listen across differences for understanding, and more than 500 civility conversations have been hosted nationwide. Additionally, nearly 13,000 participants, mainly young adults, have used the award-winning “Text, Talk, Revive Civility” platform to hold respectful conversations and learn about civil discourse.
In 2017, Tacoma, Wash. was selected as one of five “Deep Dive” cities to participate in the “Revive Civility and Respect Cities” program. The other cities named were Culver City, Calif.; Waterloo, Iowa; Bar Harbor, Maine and Upper Arlington, Ohio.
About the National Institute for Civil Discourse: The National Institute for Civil Discourse, is a non-profit, non-partisan institute based at the University of Arizona dedicated to addressing incivility and political dysfunction in American democracy by promoting structural and behavioral change. Informed by research, NICDs programs are designed to create opportunities for elected officials, the media, and the public to engage different voices respectfully and take responsibility for the quality of our public discourse and effectiveness of our democratic institutions. Their National Advisory Board includes former President Bill Clinton; former Senators Tom Daschle and Olympia Snowe; former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Colin Powell; and journalists including Katie Couric and NPR’s Scott Simon.
– National Institute for Civil Discourse