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Column: Let’s improve our civility in discourse

Restoring civility in American politics was one of the three pillars of the 2017 Mackinac Policy Conference. This pillar encouraged business and civic leaders to shape public discourse to restore the art of compromise for progress in today’s polarized political environment. The effort didn’t end at the Conference. As a To-Do list item, the Detroit Regional Chamber will continue to encourage civility in the Detroit region. This article, originally published via news outlets and other websites, is an example of others in the community joining the movement to promote civility.   

From The Detroit News

By Anne Mervenne and Steve Tobocman

June 22, 2017

We are inspired and encouraged that restoring civility in American politics was one of the three pillars at this year’s Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference. Daily, if not hourly, our airwaves and computer news feeds are filled with cringe-worthy words, images and actions. Insulting commentary is reported and repeated. Hurtful words and deeds are liked, promoted and shared.

Yet, we see hope. Since its founding in 1992, the Michigan Political Leadership Program, one of the nation’s only bipartisan training programs which is at home in Michigan State University’s College of Social Science, has recruited, trained and, hopefully, inspired public policy leaders. Each year, MPLP offers 24 MPLP Fellows, from all the political spectrum, the vision, commitment and skills to govern from the grassroots and local office to the state Capitol.

Realistically, it will take more than a single discussion to end hyper-partisanship and restore a sense of civility. We must start by building civil habits early in political careers and encouraging leaders to live and treat others as they would seek to be treated, a kind of political “golden” rule.

As co-directors of MPLP, we offer a hopeful outlook.


MORE: Civility in American politics is part of the 2017 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List. Learn more about the list and see the other to-dos here.


We strive for civil conversations in a multipartisan learning environment that takes our MPLP Fellows from hands-on visits to corporate headquarters, to tours of communities they’ve never visited, to the sharing of personal revelations.

We ask fellows from opposing parties to overnight together as part of routine MPLP experiences. We ask them to host events and complete assignments together, regardless of political party.

We know their success stories: MPLP graduates make up 10 percent of the seats in the last three Michigan Legislatures. MPLP ranks include such notables as Aaron Payment, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Ken Cockrel Jr., former Detroit mayor and city council member.

Civility and bipartisanship start at home — at the local level and in our state Legislature.

Equally notable are hundreds of MPLP Fellows who occupy village, city, county, school and even precinct offices. In our first-ever research of the fates of our MPLP graduates, we have found that MPLP Fellows are twice as likely to run for public office and three times as likely to win as those equally rated applicants who haven’t taken part in the program.

We are truly proud to say that nearly half go on to hold elective or appointed office.

The Detroit News recently asked: “Can Mackinac confab make political civility cool again?” The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Chief Gerald F. Seib has also asked: “Civil Discourse in Decline: Where Does It End?”

Read the original article here.


More on civility in politics:

Michael Beschloss: Effective Leaders Embody Guts, Persuasiveness, Sense of History and Civility