In a time of increasingly polarized political discourse nationwide, 25 youth of the Waterloo Youth City Council, ranging in age from 15 to 18, participated in a three-hour civility training on Monday conducted by the National Institute of Civil Discourse (NICD) at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.
The goals of the training included building interest and curiosity in civil discourse; demonstrating what civil conversations look like; practicing communication skills needed for collaboration, conflict resolution and creating change; inspiring further action; and providing the tools and confidence needed for youth to lead future trainings. The program builds on the “Character Counts” work of the Ray Center and a partnership with NICD in support of the Mayor’s commitment to bridging divides and fostering the talent of young leaders as part of the Youth City Council program.
“At a time when Americans of all ages believe that incivility across the country has reached historic proportions, the need for civil discourse is more important than ever,” said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director Emerita of the National Institute for Civil Discourse and a native of Hampton, Iowa. “These inspiring young leaders are actively engaged in civic life and can become ambassadors for leading with the values of civility, empathy and respect.”
“Offering the skills and tools of civility to our young leaders is the best possible way we can launch the Waterloo Youth City Council and begin to restore respect and common courtesy to our public squares,” said Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. “As result of this Deep Dive, we believe Waterloo will become a place of re-birth for public civility, a beacon of hope for the nation.”
The training the youth received is part of a grassroots initiative, “Revive Civility and Respect,” to give community members and leaders across the country solution-oriented actions to call for, and restore, civility and respect in our democracy. Through this initiative, NICD has engaged or trained thousands of people in civil discourse skills to listen across differences for understanding, and more than 500 civility conversations have been hosted nationwide. Additionally, nearly 13,000 participants, mainly young adults, have used the award-winning “Text, Talk, Revive Civility” platform to hold respectful conversations and learn about civil discourse.
In 2018, Waterloo, Iowa, was selected as one of five “Deep Dive” cities to participate in the “Revive Civility and Respect Cities” program. The other cities named were Culver City, Calif.; Tacoma, Wash.; Bar Harbor, Maine and Upper Arlington, Ohio.
About the National Institute for Civil Discourse
The National Institute for Civil Discourse, is a non-profit, non-partisan institute based at the University of Arizona dedicated to addressing incivility and political dysfunction in American democracy by promoting structural and behavioral change. Informed by research, NICD’s programs are designed to create opportunities for elected officials, the media, and the public to engage different voices respectfully and take responsibility for the quality of our public discourse and effectiveness of our democratic institutions. Their National Advisory Board includes former President Bill Clinton; former Senators Tom Daschle and Olympia Snowe; former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Colin Powell; and journalists including Katie Couric and NPR’s Scott Simon.
About the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University
The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center provides character and leadership development strategies to improve civility and develop ethical leaders throughout the world. Through public awareness and programming grounded in research, The Ray Center features two programs, CHARACTER COUNTS! and Excellence with Integrity. Our initiatives benefit people of all ages and are easily adaptable for families, schools, workplaces, and athletic teams and organizations. The Ray Center honors two of Drake’s most respected alumni—Robert D. and Billie Ray—whose humanitarian efforts, character and leadership set an inspirational example for multiple generations.