The desire for civility among Americans has no party favorites.

According to a survey commissioned by Allegheny College, a large majority – 95 percent – of Americans believe civility in politics is important for a healthy democracy. In addition, 87 percent of those same respondents believe it’s possible for individuals to disagree about politics respectfully.

These numbers also reflect research showing the immediacy of the topic in today’s environment.

Civility Challenge in U.S.

Civility remains a critical challenge in the U.S., according to a report from Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate and KRC Research.

Unfortunately, in recent years the political climate has dissolved to create more divisiveness within our communities. Leaders on both sides of the political spectrum have opted to focus on what divides us instead of what unites us.

As a result, the subsequent impacts are too significant to count – from greater distrust in our institutions to an increase in hate crimes and racial bullying.

It’s essential that we all work together to create an environment that respects all people.

Leading by Example

On June 18, community members and local leaders came together to discuss civility in politics at the latest KPBS Community Heroes event, hosted in partnership with the National Conflict Resolution Center and sponsored by The San Diego Foundation Center for Civic Engagement.

At the event, Imam Taha Hassane, Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego, was honored as the KPBS Community Hero thanks to his efforts to promote civility and social justice in the San Diego region.

His longtime commitment to civility throughout the county is a shining example of how the community could model itself when working with those of different faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.

Disagreement is inevitable and healthy, but without reason and respect it will be challenging for our society to evolve.

“Democracy flourishes when people can debate ideas respectfully,” shared Hassane during his on-stage interview with KPBS Roundtable anchor Mark Sauer. Attendees in the room took those words literally as they broke into small group discussions to dive deeper into the topic of civility.

When asked what could be done to improve the current environment, many cited the need for a “stronger commitment to civil discourse in youth education,” while others emphasized the importance of “building relationships through shared, non-political activities.”

See more actionable ideas from the small group discussions here

Turning Conversation into Action

Hassane’s closing comments paved the way for a positive future.

He commented, “I believe at this moment our country is going through a major test. I believe that with more effort, by dedicating more time and energy to reach out to as many people as possible in this society and the nation, and by opening the channels of conversation with them, things will be fine in the future.”

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The KPBS Community Heroes event reinforced how important it is to prioritize the values and qualities that unite us as neighbors and San Diegans.

Everyone has a role to play in building a more civil society.

Whether it is through community service, our faiths or family traditions, there are countless ways to come together and find common ground in a civil and productive manner.

Whether it is through community service, our faiths or family traditions, we can all find ways to heed Hassane’s advice and come together to find common ground in a civil and productive manner.

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