Shared by Mr. Robert L. Dilenschneider, St. Charles Preparatory School’s Class of 1961
“In a few hours 2021 will be underway. Our call in the coming year is for a renewed focus on and an increased practice of civility.
Merriam-Webster defines civility as “civilized conduct, courtesy, politeness, a polite act or expression.” But it is far more complex than that. Over the past 10 years we have sponsored a lecture series in which on an almost monthly basis a prominent member of society has explored different aspects of civility.
Here are 12 excerpts from their talks that I believe you will find worth reading:
When the hero of Camus’ “The Plague” reminds a friend that what will get the village through a pandemic is civility, he is asked for a definition. “Just doing one’s job” is the answer. We all need to be grateful for all who did – and are doing – just that.
— Dr. Allan Goodman
President, Institute of International Education
Civility is really nothing more than good manners, and good manners are about respecting yourself and others. It may be a cliché, but treating others like you would like to be treated should be a basic rule of life. It is so much more rewarding when people feel comfortable in your company.
— The Honorable Georgette Mosbacher
U.S. Ambassador to Poland
Civility means listening to opposing viewpoints so that you hear what is being said. Another important ingredient is compassion and understanding. My rule of thumb is to place yourself in the shoes of the other and imagine what their life is like.
— David Levinson
Former President, Norwalk Community College
One of the blessings of America is the right to disagree with our leaders and our fellow citizens without fear of reprisal. But we must relearn as a nation the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. Our political opponents are not our enemies, but our neighbors. We must welcome their perspectives even as we disagree with some of their ideas. We must recapture the high ground of civility in our discourse, finding common ground for the common good, while expressing disagreement without poisoning debate.
— The Honorable Rick Perry
Former Secretary of Energy
Civility on a national level can only be achieved if we have civility in personal relationships.
— Dr. Henry Kaufman
President of Henry Kaufman & Company
I am a nationally syndicated humor columnist and an author whose work, I am proud to say, has no redeeming social value. I write about family foibles and the funny little things of everyday life. I don’t believe in cruel or mean-spirited humor. In the spirit of civility, I never put other people down. Instead, I poke fun at myself, mainly because I am a rich target — well, maybe not rich, as my wife and the IRS will attest, but definitely deserving. Humor is a tonic for troubled times. It is important to laugh, especially now, but equally important to be kind and, yes, civil. My mission should also be yours: Fill the world with love and laughter, and make it a better place.
— Jerry Zezima
Humorist and Author
Civility is critical to the stability and mental health of a democracy. It is not a term associated with authoritarian governments. The durability of a democracy is tied directly to its emphasis on public and private civility.
In by-gone generations at all levels, families, schools, religious groups, and public institutions stressed the relevance of courtesy, politeness, good manners, and civil behavior and discourse. It permeated American life. When exactly and why brutish behavior became acceptable or even touted is worthy of a longer discourse, but is indisputable that it is with us today. Leadership and good example for promoting a return of civility is long overdue and welcome for the good of all.
— Jack Devine
Former CIA Officer, President of The Arkin Group
Covering news in New York City for decades, I can tell you that civility is the difference between order and disorder. Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
I have witnessed the best and the worst of human of behavior in my long career as a TV news reporter and anchor. As they say, I’ve seen it all. So with that experience and perspective, I encourage everyone to practice civility as a powerful act of kindness and decency. It’s all about human dignity and respect for each other.
— Ernie Anastos
Emmy Award-Winning TV News Anchor
Treating others with civility and respect is not just the right and the decent approach, it is also generally the most productive approach – at least until proven otherwise.
— General David H. Petraeus (Ret.)
Partner, KKR, and Chairman, KKR Global Institute
Civility is often equated with politeness and acquiescence; on the contrary it is caring engagement about those things that bind us together as people and inhabitants of this planet. Civility matters in terms of whether or not we care about Planet Earth and the people and animals that inhabit it.
— Stephen M. Coan, PhD
President & CEO, Sea Research Foundation
Civility is often reduced to a conversation about the disappearance of manners and etiquette (usually led by older people and inflicted on younger ones). Of course, it is a much larger — and more important — idea. True civility is found in the ways we strengthen common bonds. How we remain tolerant, considerate and embracing of others. Our shared commitment to reason, fairness and democracy. Civility is found in how we reaffirm those fundamental shared understandings that hold our societies together, no matter how much our politics or opinions might divide us.
— Henry Timms
President & CEO, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
We must hold ourselves accountable to a high level of civility in our behavior, or else we cannot expect it from others around us. We are the role models for future generations, and if we do not lead by example, then we do a great disservice to all those who will come after us.
— Cindi Bigelow
President & CEO, Bigelow Tea
From all of us at The Dilenschneider Group, a Happy, Healthy, Safe, Prosperous — and Civil — New Year.