Lynn University recently welcomed politicians and local media representatives for two Dialogues in Civility events: “In Conversation with Congress” and “In Conversation with the Media.” Both events were part of Project Civitas, an academic initiative to promote civility in politics and public life. Dr. Robert Watson, Lynn professor of American Studies and political analyst, moderated both sessions.
“Debate, disagreement and dissent are not necessarily problems, but they are essential ingredients for democracy. However, these must be constructive, fact-based and most importantly, civil.”
The March 31 event “In Conversation with Congress” featured a heated debate among U.S. House of Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Lois Frankel (D-FL), Florida House Representative Lori Berman (D-FL), and Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams. Members of Knights of the Roundtable (KOR), Lynn’s student’s government, asked questions regarding the roots of political incivility and the influence of social media on civil disagreement.
Congressman Deutch argued that a lack of empathy in the House paired with new representatives has increased difficulty in decision-making. He proposed modifying the Congress members’ name tags to promote bipartisanship.
“A simple solution is to have representatives wear nametags with their name and the state they are from, not their party,” said Deutch. “This would help us spark some conversation and communicate better.”
The panel agreed that communication is one of the biggest challenges of civility in the 21st century.
The April 5 “In Conversation with the Media” welcomed journalists Michael Williams, senior anchor, WPTV-5 NBC; Antonio Fins, editor, Palm Beach Post; Johanna Neuman, journalist, USA Today; and Manny Munos, host and producer, WIOD 610 AM. Hot topics addressing the challenges of covering political incivility included "fake news" and deciphering "alternative facts.”
Panelists emphasized the increased amount of time, energy and resources they must spend on fact-checking while not slowing down the rate at which news is reported.
“The journalism industry is among the most transparent you can possibly find,” said Fins. “The issue is that we, as citizens, have lost the ability to reason, discuss and come to consensus with each other when we receive news.”
All four leaders concluded that promoting civility in society requires journalists to be civil with one another, especially. The event concluded with an open question-and-answer session among the panelists, members of Lynn’s Civility Club and student leaders.
Dialogues in Civility events complement the university’s award-winning Dialogues core curriculum. Lynn’s mission through the program is to promote civility through education in and outside of the classroom. To watch past Dialogues in Civility programs, visit youtube.com/LynnUniversity.