As our Listen First movement gains steam, exciting new opportunities abound. Last week I was invited to attend an event hosted by George W. Bush in New York City. It was an honor to be with national leaders from both sides of the political aisle but even more encouraging to hear each of them speak to the need for Listen First.
I heard President Bush decry “our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” observing that “argument turns too easily to animosity; disagreement escalates into dehumanization.”
First Lady Laura Bush echoed her husband’s sentiments, saying “we must teach our children how to listen, to show empathy, to show civility in the face of disagreement and to overcome malice and hate. And we must model that behavior ourselves.”
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright added that we must have “honest conversations… based on respect for other people’s views.” On the same day, President Obama decried “folks who… demonize people who have different ideas.”
Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center said, “When people respectfully listen to opposite points of view… that itself is an exercise in citizenship of the highest kind.”
At his first inaugural address in 2001, President Bush said, “Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment; it is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” Last week he told those of us gathered in New York that America today needs organizations to champion civil discourse. Listen First Project and our Listen First Coalition of organizations coast to coast are answering that call. Will you?
With real conversations towards increased respect and understanding, we will restore relationships, build bridges, and mend the frayed fabric of our society. As foreign adversaries seek to foment division among us, that’s hope and change that will make America great again.