The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

America, we have a problem

I ran across a bit of news yesterday that is very disturbing.

I’ll admit that before yesterday, I didn’t know about a thing called The Civility Project (, but now that I do

Seems Mark DeMoss, a PR guru from Atlanta, created this program to encourage more polite and civil discussion among our country’s politicians and strategists. The basic premise of this organization is to encourage a fair fight without yelling, ranting or being generally disagreeable.  This is how Mr. DeMoss worded it:

Our only aim in launching this project two years ago was to call people from all races, walks of life, and religious…and political persuasions to graciousness, kindness, common decency and respect—civility—toward all people, and particularly those with whom we may disagree.

I can hear my 3rd grade teacher  using some of the same words as she talked to us about playing nice on the playground. This isn’t highly intellectual stuff here. The story continues…

On May 27, 2010, The Civility Project mailed 585 letters. Each member of Congress and each of our 50 governors got this letter asking them to pledge to be nice. That’s it. Be nice. It was a 32-word Civility Pledge:

1. I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.

2. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.

3. I will stand against incivility when I see it.

Three signed this pledge. Three.

Who wouldn’t sign something like this?? If for no other reason than for its face value!

As a business etiquette coach, this presents a bit of a problem. How am I supposed to convince members of our non-political society how important it is to their business to behave respectfully when our own leaders not only act terrible in heated moments, but they make the conscious decision to disagree with the basic principle of civility?

As a parent, it presents a larger problem. From the grocery store aisle to playgroups to the middle school lunchroom, we stress over and struggle with our children’s tendency toward misbehavior. The least our country’s leaders could do is not be the bully we are terrified our children could become or, worse, fall victim to.  

Due to “lack of interest”, The Civility Project has been shut down.

It just makes my stomach hurt. And it makes me mad.

What do you think? I really want to know because this isn’t the last time you’re going to hear about this.



4 responses to “America, we have a problem

  1. Lisa Smart January 12, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I agree Kate… it is sad that only 3 would sign this… but it just shows how common decentcy how disappeared in our society, but especially in politics. I wrote an article today for our magazine about trust… It is sad that I am having to write an article to minister’s about trust– again common decentcy disappearing everywhere!

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  3. Jay Remer January 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for writing about this Kate. Perhaps if a group of us from the “industry” signed a letter to the same people if we’d get any more traction. The DeMoss project did have some religious overtones which may have turned a lot of members of Congress away. Just a thought.

  4. Jana A January 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Despicable. But somehow NOT surprising that only 3 signed it. That would mean they’d have to actually BE civil. And then well, we all know how that would turn out. I hate it. We have got to do better at being kind and gentle with each other.

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