Middle schoolers I know are better mannered than the adults who claim to represent us in Washington. That is a sad fact in our society. And, I cannot even say that the leaders of our country are acting like children, because that would be an affront to children. Our country’s leaders, on both sides of the aisle, are morally corrupt and ill-behaved, and frankly, I am tired of seeing it.
Many of you know that I never talk about politics or religion, (or football, but that is another story). These topics are really not appropriate for a Head of School to have a public opinion about, and I will not talk about them with you unless we are married, or close family members. In reality, no party represents me. This was especially evident this past week.
All of our political leaders need a lesson in civility. I had the privilege to meet the late P.M. Forni during my time at Roland Park Country School. He was an endowed lecturer one year and I was his RPCS contact and guide for the day. The former Johns Hopkins professor and director of the Civility Initiative wrote two books, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, (2002), and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude (2010). These should be required reading for all humans, and most especially, for those who serve the people. In Choosing Civility he wrote “civility derives from the Latin civitas which means “city,” especially in the sense of civic community.” Thus, I believe it is every human’s responsibility to act with civility to improve the quality of life for all in our community.
In Choosing Civility, he also wrote: Speaking with consideration and kindness is at the heart of civil behavior. To speak kindly you need to be aware constantly that you are speaking to living, breathing, vulnerable human beings. Don’t discount the power of words. The thoughts that they might cause unnecessary hurt or discomfort should inform every conversation. I would add “acting” to “speaking.” Actions are just as powerful as words – not shaking an outstretched hand, not standing for a 100-year-old World War II veteran who is being honored, or ripping an important document on national television were too much for me. I have added two characteristics to my list of must-haves for a candidate to receive my vote: civility and kindness. You can learn lots of things on a job, but kindness is not one of them. That trait is innate.
Forni also wrote: If we agree that life is important, then thinking as we go through it is the basic tribute we owe it. It also happens to be the golden way to the good life — the kind of life in which happiness blooms. I could not agree more. I do my best reflecting when I am outside, or on the porch, looking outside. Have you seen the Snow Moon this weekend. This February full moon is named after the snow that we normally have on the ground at this time of year, although some Native American tribes named this the Hunger Moon due to the scarce food sources and hard hunting conditions during mid-winter. Regardless, it is simply breathtaking. Look up. If we take the time to observe the beauty that surrounds us, we can better appreciate our lives. This, in turn, should help make us a more civil society.
For millennia, Native American tribes and people across Europe, named the months after features they associated with the Northern Hemisphere seasons. Let’s make this coming November’s moon the Civility Moon, and only elect a leader who is civil and whose words are respectful and kind.
Words and actions matter.
Photo cred: My friend and RPCS alumna Shelby Strudwick, The Snow Moon over the red roof inn from across the river on February 8.