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Compromise. Civility. Community.

Despite our differences, we all have the same say in our representative democracy

By Sandy K. Baruah

Each year at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, our agenda focuses on three distinct themes. For 2017, the theme that stood out was restoring civility in American politics. This element of the Conference garnered more attention and press coverage than the other two timely issues on the agenda and was the issue most of the event’s high-profile speakers touched upon.

As a result, the Chamber made civility a yearlong “To Do” item coming out of the Conference. This issue of the Detroiter is part of the effort. The articles in this edition focus on civility and collaboration, and how these values have helped good things happen for Detroit and Michigan. On the cover, we are pleased to highlight Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Council President Brenda Jones. Duggan and Jones embody what it means to work collaboratively, treat each other with respect, while maintaining core principles. It’s not that they don’t disagree, it’s that they have found a way to work together despite disagreements and craft compromises that allow the business of Detroit to move forward.

Compromise; when did this become a dirty word? While we all have our own biases and preferences, when did our society forget that no one perspective will – or should – prevail all the time. In fact, it is the competition of ideas and perspectives that make our community work. Even though I am a Republican, I readily acknowledge that our communities are better and our society stronger thanks to the leadership and contribution of Democrats and those more liberal than me. Their work has moved our nation closer to the ideals of a “more perfect union” and “justice for all.”

This is the essence of what it means to be a community. Regardless if you are talking about neighborhood, city, nation or even the world, we are all part of a community – several communities, in fact. The word “community” is derived from the Latin “communitas,” which means “shared in common.” Things shared in common require compromise. If I share a bowl of tater tots with you, by definition, I cannot consume all of them (even though I would desperately want to). Our larger society works on that same principle.

It is also important to recognize that as different as we all are – the Texas oil rig roughneck, the Subarudriving environmentalist in Maine, the Silicon Valley VC titan, and all the other 320 million Americans – we all have the same say in our representative democracy. How can any single perspective be expected to prevail among 320 million diverse individuals?

While we all secretly wish we could rule the world, the reality is that we are all part of a large and diverse community. Achieving success in our community requires compromise – and it is hard to achieve compromise without first creating an environment of civility.

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