NICD Executive Director Speaks Out On Democracy and Civility on PBS

July 24, 2012

From PBS (Arizona Public Media)  For video:

"The National Institute for Civil Discourse's new executive director says she's ready to tackle the issue of civility, or incivility, in politics by focusing on the roles three distinct groups of people have in politics.

"We're at a moment in political discourse in the United States that is the most dysfunctional, it's the most negative in my entire adult lifetime," says Carolyn Lukensmeyer, explaining why she decided to join the institute.

She says there are three major players in the political realm, and each has a different role in civility. The institute will focus on each separately.

First, the institute plans to work directly with members of Congress to encourage them to work together. The institute wants to get congressional committee members to know each other so they can build working relationships.

Second, the institute is gauging the opinions of the public on perceptions of the level of discourse. A recent poll the institute conducted showed 81 percent of moderate Democrats, Republicans and independents said they are ashamed of the way elected officials act when dealing with big political issues.

"Most Americans really want to solve the problems facing our country, and they are quite capable of coming together and listening to each other across their diverse views and making decisions together," she says.

Third, she says the media have a role in encouraging civility by not "fueling the flames" with a continued focus on the extremes instead of moderate political positions.

Lukensmeyer previously worked in the Clinton administration and then started an organization called America Speaks, which connected residents and taxpayers with their representatives.

"The whole idea was to make 'of the people, by the people, for the people' real again," she says."

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