NCSL Participates in Messaging Workshop.
By Jon Kuhl
Last Friday, I attended a workshop held by the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The workshop’s goal was to help develop the institute’s message as it begins a national effort to improve the level of civility in American politics.
The workshop was attended by about 40 representatives and leaders from a slew of bipartisan organizations and academic institutions, including the Council of State Governments, the National League of Cities and the League of Women Voters.
Everyone was in agreement that our nation—in state capitols and Washington—is in need of greater civility. Examples of politicians denigrating their political opponents and crossing the line from honest disagreement to character attacks are plentiful. With an ever-growing list of problems to be solved, the need for public officials to work together and demonstrate mutual respect could not be more urgent.
While the need for greater civility may be evident, how our country achieves this goal is not. The workshop began with a discussion about how the issue of civility should be framed to build support and generate action. The conversation focused on posing the issue as a problem, and tapping into the age-old belief that Americans are, at their core, problem-solvers. Embedded in this message is the connection we must all make between recognizing that our nation has a problem, and the responsibility each of us bears for creating and contributing to it. The next step, of course, is that each of us can play a role in fixing the problem.
The workshop was intended as an information-gathering and brain-storming session. From here, the public interest communications firm Fenton, and the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, will further develop and test the messages discussed during the workshop.
I’m excited about the work that I expect to be coming down the pike from the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and think this new organization may have a lot to contribute. I also believe NCSL has an important role to play with organizations such as this. The benefits to state legislatures across the country are potentially huge. NCSL is proud of the work we have already done on this topic, including the Civility Accord passed last year by our Executive Committee.
For more information on the institute and their goals, I suggest checking out their website. I should also note that the institute, which is housed at the University of Arizona, counts several prominent public servants among its board members, including Gabrielle Giffords, Ken Duberstein, Madeline Albright and Colin Powell. The institute is chaired by former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, along with Tom Daschle and Sandra Day O’Connor.