Presentation: Civility Part 3

Discussion Facilitator Sam Miglarese

Discussion Facilitator Carver Weaver

Monday’s program departed from our normal routine of a program delivered by a guest or sometimes one of our own members. As the third and final program in a series on Civility, we shifted gears and each of the tables was given an index card and asked to discuss one of the elements of the 4 Way Test and record any conclusions that would be assembled and turned into some sort of report that might be shared with other clubs or the larger Rotary family.

Coordinator of Civility Series: Dallas Stallings

All this was organized by Dallas Stallings who credited Doug Butler with bugging him with the idea. This final chapter was handled by Sam Miglarese and Carver Weaver. We had a reading list that included two articles from the May copy of The Rotarian and two excellent programs that proceeded it.

So, there was a lot of activity in the room and I can’t report what happened at every table. At the one I happened to be at there were only 4 of us, all male, all grey beards and perhaps a little world weary. Our element was “Is it the TRUTH.” One of us was a life-long Republican and one a life-long Democrat (me.) We managed to navigate a discussion about whether people with a marketing background should be given some latitude around the truth. This was in reference to you know who, but as a long-time marketer myself, I could have taken strong issue with that. However, the discussion remained civil, I’m happy to say.

So, when the roundtable part was over, I was surprised at the real substance of the four or five reports that were delivered from different tables. I did notice that most of the reports from the tables were from women or younger guys. One exception was from Professor John Staddon who is always interesting and entertaining even when espousing outrageous points of view. The guy did write a book about why it was a mistake to discourage smoking, after all. Okay, I suppose Charlie Steele and Mark Higgins aren’t very young either…they just sounded young.

Twenty or twenty-five minutes or so is not a long time to organize a random group at a table, much less develop substantive conclusions. Maybe that’s where the lesson is, that is, that we may need to leave creating a more civil society to the young and to women, especially young women. I’m sorry to lay this burden on you ladies; I know you’re still fighting for equal wages, the Equal Rights Amendment and a another shot at the presidency, but you may be our last best hope.

One of the questions asked of David Gergen last week was prefaced by a Martin Luther King quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Another famous quote of MLK and my favorite, was “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Almost 57 years after that speech, three of his children are still alive and possibly wondering if that day will ever come. So, progress on big issues is slow.

However, if civility is our goal in a wider world not guided by the Four Way Test,  I’m more inclined to go with leaders like Teddy Roosevelt who famously is quoted as saying that we need “to speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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