Community Leaders Discuss Civility

erin-laughlinBY ERIN LAUGHLIN
For the UAS Whalesong

Public Administration, journalism, and education professionals came together Feb. 23 at “Political Leadership and Civility” to discuss civility in the Last Frontier and their personal experiences in leadership.

UAS School of Management hosted the “Political Leadership and Civility” lecture at 360North as a part of their UAS MPA Lecture series. Those in attendance viewed and participated in the discussion in-person and over live webcasting.

Panelists included Alaska Senate majority and minority leader Senator Peter Micciche and Senator Berta Gardner, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, and Alaskan journalist Dermot Cole. UAS Assistant Professor of Public Administration Dr. Jim Powell led the panel discussion.

The selection of panelist was strategic according to School of Management Outreach Coordinator & MPA Program Coordinator Katy Jordan “we wanted to represent both political parties, the media perspective, and the local versus state government outlook.”

The topic of political leadership and civility was chosen for a variety of reasons Jordan indicates, “The topic is extremely relevant to current events and society’s political climate, also being located in Juneau there is easy access to great panelists, and the MBA program also has a class dedicated to it.”

Event coordinators were successful, according to UAS student Kevin Allen.

“The roster looked interesting, there were a variety of backgrounds, and I have plans to get into politics one day” as to why he attended event.

The event began by Powell citing a working definition of civility from Joan McGregor’s essay “Civility, Civic Virtue, and Citizenship.” The hour and half discussion weaved through questions about the importance of civility, civility during legislation, how it can be used to successfully get through the budget crisis, and how Alaskan’s can maintain it.

Much of the knowledge the panelists shared with the audience was discerning the difference between civil debate and unproductive discourse. The panel universally agreed that disagreement is not uncivil, but the line is crossed when the rights of others are stomped upon.

Senator Micciche asserted “Civility is about mutually respecting where we’re coming from, and finding a right solution in the end.”

As an audience member watching the state senate majority and minority leaders, Micciche and Gardner, discuss their professional relationship and how they maintain civility on the senate floor was fascinating. Senator Gardner noted that in heated emotionally charged moments “Handling them (heated moments) civilly can build stronger relations with those you disagree.”

Multiple times the discussion referenced social media’s influence on society’s civility to which journalist Cole expressed “It is easier to communicate a hostile message, if you want to, I think that has harmed our system.”

A major takeaway for the audience was that “These leaders are people outside the capital, seeing them in this forum was interesting insight” according to Allen.

Near the end of the discussion the forum was opened to the audience where attendees questioned panelists on a multitude of topics. Concerns the audience addressed included questions on appropriate forms of civil unrest, campaign finance reform, and fake news’ affect on society’s civility.

To watch the full discussion head to: http://www.360north.org/video/uas-mpa-lecture-political-leadership-civility/.

For more information on future UAS MPA lectures contact Katy Jordan by phone 796-6477 or email kcjordan@alaska.edu.

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