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even with those where our agreement on a particular
issue is far apart. It takes time. It requires intentionality.
Our community is a big table with many perspectives
from intelligent, well-intentioned people of various life
For some, the challenge of keeping discussion and debate
civil comes from the numerous outlets we have today to
"I do believe that civil discourse is
possible in Lancaster County, but
it will not happen organically,"
says Jeff Ouellet, Esquire, Appel
& Yost LLP. "We live in a society
that aggrandizes the controversial
headline, and social media
provides a platform for aggressive
criticism without meaningful
Jeff Ouellet, Esquire,
Appel & Yost LLP
explanation. To move beyond that,
we need to make a concerted
effort to evaluate the content
and merit of the message, as opposed to limiting dialogue
because of a visceral response to
For others, it's a matter of being
a role model and committing to
setting the tone for civil discourse.
Lancaster County Commissioner
Craig Lehman shared five rules he
tries to follow every day to help
foster civil public discourse.
"First and most important, it's not
about me, don't make yourself the
issue. Second, be professional, don't
make things personal. Third, be
prepared, doing your homework can make all the difference.
Fourth, be principled, fight for what is the right thing to do
and support policies that make sense. Finally, set a good
example because tone matters."
So why do these business, civic and
community leaders feel so confident
and positive about our ability to
respectfully debate and discuss
issues to a better resolution?
"I'm absolutely confident that our
local community not only can -
but wants to - talk, connect and
work together to create local
Tracy Cutler, executive
solutions," shared Tracy Cutler,
executive vice president, Lancaster Lancaster County
County Community Foundation.
"While the political climate may
have spiraled into a challenging quagmire, we should not
be confused about our local community spirit. Lancaster
County is creative, engaged
and committed to connecting to
each other and finding shared
Dave Neslund, president, Triangle
Refrigeration Company, added
some thoughts to the subject.
"Civil discourse is necessary, since
only through civil discourse will we
better understand perspectives on
the issues of the day and be able
to devise workable solutions." He
added that unfortunately, today, we lack a generally shared
view of appropriate social interactions. He also expressed
that in order for civil discourse to be possible, he believes
we need community agreement on a few items.
For the complete list, CLICK HERE.
"Ultimately, for civil discourse to occur, we must value the right
of expression over the urge to silence differing views and the
urge to discredit those who hold them," said Neslund.
Rev. Dr. Carol Lytch, president,
Lancaster Theological Seminary,
also believes civil discourse
is possible in the current
environment, and added an
interesting perspective: "Yes
(it's possible), but with a sober
recognition of human nature.
The 20th c. theologian Reinhold
Niebuhr described the double
Rev. Dr. Carol Lytch,
morality of human nature as 1)
capable of unselfish love of
neighbor on an individual and
small group level, but 2) in the
larger political arena driven by economic interests and
preservation of group privilege." She went on to say, "The
leadership of exemplary public figures can help the society
to articulate competing social interests in a manner that
is honest, respectful, and aimed at advancing our highest
So the original question has grown in scope. Is it possible
for this community to engage in reasonable, respectful
debate and discussion on important issues and challenges
impacting this place we all call home, and if so, what will it
take to achieve civil public discourse in our community?
We want to hear from you. Weigh in with your (thoughtful
and respectful) responses using the "Discussions" tab in
the above toolbar.
BY CHERYL IRWIN-BASS,
Vice President & COO, Lancaster Chamber
Contact Cheryl at