Civil Dialogue ® Resources
White Papers Library
Toward A Theory of Civil Communication - The Impact of Civil Dialogue®
Given the optimism with which Barack Obama began his presidency, no doubt even he was surprised by South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson’s vitriolic outburst of “You lie,” during his 2010 Presidential address to Congress. Throughout his presidency Obama has faced an increasing divide between parties, a polarization that while rooted in a two-party democratic system, has reared its ugly head with new enthusiasm during Obama’s first term as president. Partisan politics has played havoc with his confident agenda of hope, and partisanship for political purposes, whether it is to thwart his policies or to seek his ouster, has run rampant. Then, in January of 2011, an event occurred which had the potential to reunite the country, the tragic shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, which killed six and wounded thirteen.
Before the news of Gifford’s condition was even confirmed, media outlets, including CNN, the Huffington Post, as well as numerous GOP sources, were finger pointing over who was to blame for such an event. Liberals pointed a finger at Sarah Palin who had Giffords in the crosshairs of a rifle on her website, targeting her for defeat as the Tea Party steamrolled ahead. Conservatives were just as quick to point the blame on Giffords and her unjustifiable liberal politics. However, at a memorial service just days later, President Obama sought to salve the wounds of anger and discontent that horrified the country when he flew to Tucson and delivered a nationally televised address.
While memorializing the deceased and comforting the wounded as well as the shocked community of Tucson and the rest of the country Obama commented on the very nature of incivility which had rocked the nation, “But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds” (Obama 2011).
The need for civility in urban spaces has become of increasing importance to urban America. Controversial issues from illegal immigration, incarceration, taxation, and politics regularly divide citizens with divergent viewpoints, to the point where they cannot even have a reasonable conversation about their differences. Civil Dialogue® is but one method to bring such divergent viewpoints together to have civil discussion in a safe environment, essentially modeling “cool heads” over “hot topics.” This essay provides a theoretical foundation and operational framework for Civil Dialogue and articulates several urban venues where this format has been effective in encouraging civil communication.
A white paper on the impact of CD used to accompany Presidential and Vice Presidential debates.