Center for Ethics and Leadership

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Civility I

I'm running to catch a plane, so I will be brief. No sooner had one of my doctoral students criticized those who wanted to keep President Obama's Tuesday speech out of their schools as disrespectful of the office of the president, than Rep. Joe Wilson (R, S.C.) called the president a liar during his health care speech to Congress. What is happening to us?


  • The Reading Eagle ran a series entitled "The Decline of Civility", how preemptive. One might imagine that we have failed to teach manners, in any venue. Rep. Wilson, has apologized to the President, however, the house will consider a motion to censor the Rep. and require him to make a second apology from the floor. It is good that he apologized. It implies that he understands that his behavior was inappropriate and or disrespectful. I don't know what I think of the formal censoring....

    In discussing the incident with some of my peers...some mentioned the liveliness of debates in the British Parliament, another said "well they did it first", and another said that "boo-ing" was commonplace during presidential speeches. Well, this isn't Britain and that wasn't a debate, an interview is not a televised address to the nation, and I need to do more research on the boo-ing thing but for the record, even if true I don't approve. I was able to get a majority to come round and agree that name-calling interrupting a formal speech on the floor of the U.S. Legislature is undesirable, a few held out. I think the hold-outs need an etiquette review.

    I don't want parents to behave like that at sports games, I don't kids to behave like that in assemblies and I don't want adults to behave like that, ever. I have to say, I'm sounding rather conservative today.

    By Blogger kobe2, At September 13, 2009 2:39 PM  

  • Whatever happened to the role of freedom of speech? Obviously, the man had something to say to Obama, and so why should that matter? I believe personally that Mr. Wilson did this country a favor and openly participated in Obama's views....even if that meant taking a stand and doing something that didn't require a bunch of nods and applauses for Obama's speech.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 14, 2009 11:59 AM  

  • Civility has totally left the house in today's society. The statement made by Rep. Wilson was totally uncalled for. Having apologized for what was said does not make what he said ok. i was watching a show on espn earlier today and they were speaking about all of the cursing in sport these days. We have Serena Williams cursing out a line judge in a sport which that is know for its athletes being well composed. All of these actions being taken are not acceptable

    By Anonymous Justin Oister, At September 15, 2009 4:49 PM  

  • Civility is at the heart of promoting liberty. It is good to remember the words of the great American judge Learned Hand when he wrote "The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest." Liberty is both the precondition for and the product of civility.

    By Blogger Larry Pullen, At September 24, 2009 9:42 AM  

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