Priming the Democracy Pump: Civil Discourse in Silicon Valley

As one of many outcomes of the January 21st, 2017 Women’s March, a group of Santa Clara County League LWV members met in February to determine what actions they could take. Some in that group showed interest in the topic of civil discourse (CD). As defined by the San Luis Obispo & San Diego Leagues, which have taken a position on this topic, civil discourse is courteous, constructive communication characterized by mutual respect, fairness and attentive listening.

At a minimum, it is mutually respectful, courteous, constructive and orderly communication.

After several sessions to discuss the topic and how to take further action, a mailing list of over 20 people from several Leagues (Cupertino Sunnyvale, Mountain View Los Altos, Palo Alto and Southwest San Jose) and some non-League participants has evolved. A smaller group meeting several times over the past months has determined goals for their initial work:

  • Reduce emotional response to conflicting opinions
  • Learn about LWV
  • Develop an action plan
  • Be more active
  • How to talk with those who disagree with us
  • Ways to reach out to others
  • Develop a curriculum we can share

Several in the group participated in the LWVC Convention Caucus on “Bridging the Divide: Sharing the Work of Local Leagues” which included work on CD in other Leagues. The local group is now actively pursuing several projects: contacting other Leagues to stimulate dialog around their polarization issues, planning to interview local City Council and school Board members, and developing a curriculum for training interested League and community members. They have recently requested status in the Santa Clara County Council as the Santa Clara County Leagues Civil Discourse Committee. The group welcomes members of all Leagues interested in participating. To be included on the CD mailing list, contact Marieann Shovlin at [email protected].

Submitted by Marieann Shovlin, June 19, 2017.

   

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