Calling for civil discourse

January 14, 2021

Reflecting on recent events, Asheville Chamber president Kit Cramer shared these thoughts:

The appalling events in our nation’s capital have been on the forefront of my mind over the last week and play into larger issues I’ve been contemplating for some time. Freedom of speech is well rooted in democracy. But, violence, like we saw last week; ugly or threatening behavior; disregard for private property; property damage and personal attacks or harassment of public officials is not democracy. Those behaviors are destructive to healthy community and good governance. As a community and as a nation, we’ve got to work together to restore democracy and find a way forward that makes us all stronger.

I think it’s time to double down on two things:

1) We must encourage bipartisanship by our elected leaders in all forms of government. We need better communication across the aisle. More listening. More seeking of compromise, which should not be a bad word. We should expect our elected officials to represent the full community whether they cast votes in their favor or not. Business can be a leader on this front. After all, the workplace is a melting pot of backgrounds and perspectives that still has the power to forge progress, achieve common goals and build both friendship and mutual respect.

2) We need a return to civil discourse in the public sphere. The lawless behavior witnessed at our nation’s capital is the tragic result of behaviors too long tolerated in political dialogue – especially online. These are behaviors that would never be tolerated in our homes, our schools or our places of business. Likewise, we should support our elected officials when they lead with civility, truth, transparency and interest in the greater good. Leadership that rejects the politics of division, harassment and violence deserves our respect and our support in times such as these. I encourage you to talk to your elected officials frequently and pat them on the back when they are trying to do the right thing and actually listen to both sides and make a valued fact-based decision.

Clearly, citizens are divided in their political beliefs. Election results at all levels prove that. The only way we make progress as a community, or a state or a nation is by working together. We should do that with civility and decorum.

As a nonpartisan organization, we’ll continue to value differing perspectives, to promote compromise and to encourage our elected officials to seek pragmatic solutions in times like these. That’s something you’ll see in our legislative priorities that will be unveiled at the end month.

We hope you’ll stay engaged in our advocacy efforts and promote civil discourse in your own course of business. As we say at the Asheville Chamber, together we are more.