Civility? Yes, please.

 

This week our nation celebrated the anniversary of its independence and birth; it is a time to be both festive and somber.  We recall the courage of our founders and the challenges they faced.

What seems particularly forgotten these days is the nature of political debate. Make no mistake, great men like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed strenuously on many things, often finding themselves at utterly opposing ends of the issues of their day. Yet they recognized such disagreements as a healthy function of democratic governance, and sought reconciliation and compromise through consideration and respect.

One thing I learned early on in my terms as a State Representative was the difference between “Listening to Talk” and  “Listening to Listen.”  In the former, very little listening takes place.  When we practice the latter, we make the important choice to momentarily set our prejudices aside to focus on another’s point of view.  I take this mindset with me every time I travel to Hartford to work on my constituents’ behalf.  I understand that divergence of viewpoint is a fundamental aspect of democratic governance.

I cannot help but be concerned and disappointed at how this idea is being discarded.  I ask, what is the worst thing that could happen as result of listening carefully to someone you do not agree with?

My response is that one’s convictions can and should be shaped by thoughtful debate. Many times I often ask for constructive criticism on something I may be working on. Good policy and legislation that will benefit our state deserves no less. Dissent should not be regarded as equivalent to a negation of others’ opinion. Elected representatives who disagree should discuss issues in a manner that moves forward the interests of those who live in our beautiful state.

My pledge to you is to listen, and to work cooperatively for solutions.  I hope you will join me.

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Sincerely,
Melissa