LancasterThrivingSummerFall2017 - 54

community

Conversation

Opinion Column

Is Civil Discourse on
Important Community
Issues Possible in Today's
Super-Charged Environment?

I

s civil discourse on important community issues possible in
today's super-charged environment? At a recent advisory
group meeting of Thriving! magazine, the Lancaster
Chamber's business magazine, I asked this question.
Responses ranged from a few chuckles, to "not in the current
environment," to an outright, "no!" But it was the reply of,
"Even if the answer is no, shouldn't we still try?" that got
my attention.
Shouldn't we, as a community, expect and demand public
discourse on important issues facing our community?
Shouldn't all citizens commit to being role models for how
dialogue and debate can happen in a respectful manner?
How can business and community leaders set the example
and tone for public discourse? And, who should lead this
charge of civil discourse on community issues? These were
all questions that prompted me to ask a few business and
community leaders for their thoughts on whether civil
discourse was becoming a distant memory, or whether it's
still possible today.
The responses I received in return have been
overwhelmingly positive in so many ways - from
encouraging the Chamber's role in leading our community's
pursuit to discuss and debate topics of importance with
respect and civility, to the acknowledgement that there is,
indeed, a way to commit to civil discourse. Many offered up
some advice on how to achieve civil discourse, whether it
be through setting the example through one's own actions,

54 | LANCASTERTHRIVING! | Summer/Fall2017

through applying best practices or committing to some
basic "ground rules." The feedback was so encouraging, in
fact, that I decided to move forward with this column and
start the discussion around not only IF, but rather WHAT
it will take to commit to civil public discourse in
our community.
Initially, for me, this question stemmed from an idea I had
to present topics of importance to Lancaster County in the
print edition of this magazine and then invite thoughtful and
respectful community discussion and debate on the topic
via the digital edition, bringing about various perspectives
and thoughts that would ultimately help us reach the best
solution or path forward on the issue. It was perhaps the part
about "having thoughtful and respectful debate on the issue
online" that gave some of my peers the most pause. And for
good reason.
"We live in an era of rapid-fire
opinions derived from 140
characters, headlines and sound
bites without context," said
Dr. Peter Teague, president of
Lancaster Bible College. "As I
ponder the possibility of civil
discourse I believe the answer is
not if - but of course! I have found
that time invested in relationships
is a remarkable bridge to civility,

Dr. Peter Teague,
President of Lancaster
Bible College


https://www.lbc.edu

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of LancasterThrivingSummerFall2017

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