Our Opinion: Sustaining civility in government
News Tribune editorial
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Civility and cooperation may be attainable, but are they sustainable?
The question applies to various aspects of human interaction and endeavor, but it was addressed to and by government leaders last week.
The occasion was the opening week of the legislative session and, more specifically, the annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast.
Featured speaker Hal Donaldson called on people to participate in a Year of Civility and Cooperation. Donaldson is a co-founder and chief executive officer of Convoy of Hope, a Springfield-based humanitarian aid organization that delivers supplies in the aftermath of disasters.
“Today,” he said, “as we consider the uncertainties of life and all the things that make us feel anxious, and we look at the challenges that are facing or nation and the world, we can throw up our hands and accept defeat or we can press on together and make 2014 our defining moment.”
Donaldson focuses on three principles about “loving your neighbor.” They are: moving beyond sentiment to action; cooperating to advance a shared vision; and choosing a life of generosity so others may enjoy a life of opportunity.
Gov. Jay Nixon addressed those themes and their application to government. He acknowledged disagreement and debate are inherent in governing, but added: “It is vital that all of us act in a spirit of fellowship, that does not question each others’ sincerity in wanting to do what is right.”
He also discussed the power of prayer and faith. “You can’t do this job alone,” the governor said. “You can’t make decisions if you’re not calling on a higher power.”
In the spirit of civility and cooperation, we urge governing officials to focus on issues, not people.
No one in government is trying to make things worse for Missourians; officials simply have differing opinions and proposals on how to make things better. We encourage officials to try to see things through differing, or opposing, points of view.
The practice requires replacing ego with empathy, but the result is understanding.
Disagreement may be an integral part of politics, but it can be practiced without being disagreeable.
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