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This Thursday: Politics, Partisans & A Pint

From yesterday’s Tallahassee Democrat:

The Village Square continues its monthly first Thursday happy hour, “Politics, Partisans & A Pint,” this week. The event is 5 p.m. Thursday at Finnegan’s Wake off Thomasville Road at the MANOR@midtown. At 5:30 p.m., there will be a short program featuring Kim Williams, chairman of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County. Participants interested in sharing a round with someone across the aisle from them get a chance to win the next round on The Village Square. The Village Square will also give away two tickets to its January Dinner at the Square, “Global Warming, Cap & Trade, Dollars & Sense.” For more information, contact Liz Joyner at 264-8785 or go to www.tothevillagesquare.org.

Mary Ann Lindley: Civility and humility vs zealotry and ideology (…and The Village Square)

Mary Ann Lindley mentioned us this morning in her “Local Conversation” front page article in the Tallahassee Democrat. I can’t find it online yet, so here’s a clip: (Update: Here’s the link.)

Probably the toughest challenge for people once elected to office, apart from not taking too personally all that kissing up, is to bear up under the zealotry and frankly crude and outrageous public dialogue. If you can call it dialogue.

Electronic communications have unleashed the demons in a lot of otherwise (I sincerely hope) well-behaved people… The fact that public officials hear more often from extremists than from moderates no doubt contributes to their finding such comfort in party ideology. Just repeat the party line; repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s much less of a strain than examining the jumble of nuances of public policies and risk exposing yourself as an independent thinker, rather than a loyal ideologue. (Voters are, sad to say, merciless on officials who change their minds – which is absurd on the part of voters if the official has merely learned a thing or two.)

2010 would be a good time to begin working our way out of the current practice of twisting and shouting on every topic. We do that via every means of communication and in every venue – except for that most civil of them all, over your shopping cart at the grocery story.

The Village Square and Florida Humanities Council are noble bearers of this calming effort, trying again on Jan. 12 to convey the message that you can sometimes make progress by just talking to one another about the things you have in common and then working on your points of disagreement.

This approach is call civilization. It’s what separates us from the braying beasts of the field, some of which look pretty nonthreatening compared to the bellowing at town hall meetings that marked the year ’09.

Former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach will be speaking at the Village Square’s Challenger Center event on the 12th, kicking off his 50-state “Civility Tour.” It’s meant to emphasize the dangers of perpetuating what Leach calls this “era of clashing civilizations” – on the back streets of cities as well as the back halls of Washington and Tallahassee.

Give me a yell if you find an online link so that you can read this whole excellent article.

50-state Civility Tour: National Endowment for the Humanities Chair joins The Village Square

“The temper and integrity of the political dialogue are more important for the cohesiveness of society than the outcome of any election.”–Jim Leach

Join us for this special opportunity to talk with NEH Chair Jim Leach on Tuesday, January 12. Find details and RSVP HERE

According to Luke: County Fairs, Town Halls, Tailgates, and Tea Parties

Somewhere on the path to the Tea Parties and Town Halls of today where
civility is left at the door, we forgot about… well, civility.

America was founded on the idea of the community. The first tea party was a bunch of our ancestors dressing up like Indians and showing King George just what we thought about his taxes. Americans were united, for a cause. From that famous tea party in Boston, to town halls all across the Northeast, we learned to listen to each other, and began to realize that maybe the people who thought differently than us weren’t all that evil. (If the Greeks could do it in robes and sandals, surely we could!)

In the south, county fairs served as the main social event of the year. Once
a year the fair would roll into town and people got together to ride rides,
eat some good southern cookin’, and check out the show on Friday night. They baked pies to sell and put on their best pair of jeans with the hopes that maybe some southern belle would catch their eye. County fairs turned into political platforms. Candidates for local and national office would stump on the stage in between acts. People from all across the county came out to listen to what they had to say.

We used to read newspapers; we used to join bowling leagues and the PTA. We used to have bake sales and lemonade stands. But then something happened. This brand new thing called the television came out, and all of sudden we could find out everything we needed to from the comfort of our own home. We could watch the shows we wanted to and listen to the people we agreed with, and we could even ignore the people we disagreed with.

Then we started demonizing the people on all those “other” channels. We the People, became Us vs. Them. We assigned red or blue colors to friends,
families, and neighbors. We gave 30 second blurbs to each side then let them argue for the next 20 minutes. All of sudden the great American Democracy looked like an elementary school playground.

Today, at Tea Parties and Town Halls we’d just rather yell louder than
someone with a different view than actually listen to what they have to say.
County Fairs are no longer the great social gatherings they once were.

Tailgates are the last great American neighborhood. That’s right, tailgates. On Saturdays in the fall, tailgating means having a party with thousands of your friends. It means seeing old buddies and making new ones. College campuses are full of makeshift tent communities, where there are no privacy fences separating neighbors. It’s just a bunch of folks having some drinks, grilling out and actually talking to each other. If a fan from the other team walks by, you may trade the occasional barb, but it’s all in good fun. Come game time you leave your tent and chair unattended, hoping nobody bothers them, and for the most part they don’t.

Why can we come together around something like football, but can’t seem to agree about how to take care of the sick in our society? How come we feel no worry to leave our tailgate unattended but lock our doors and windows at night?

Bill Clinton once said that there is nothing wrong with America that can’t
be fixed with what is right with America. We didn’t forget how to be civil. We learn how to share and respect our elders growing up. We didn’t forget how to live in a community or the emotional rewards of having a unique bond with a complete stranger.

Sometimes we forget how to be grown-ups. I’m sure our founders weren’t
perfect either, but they were smart enough to remember that we are all in
this together. Win or lose, just like a tailgate.

So bake a pie, throw on your best pair of jeans. Sip some tea and put on that jersey, let’s go spread some civility!

–Village Square intern Luke Inhen is a Political Science graduate student at Florida State.

(Photo credit.)

We have a difference of opinion

turkey legs

Glenn Beck wants you to buy his book “Arguing with Idiots” so you can argue with your dumb uncle from Berkeley over the holidays.

The Village Square thinks you should enjoy the turkey and love your uncle even though you don’t agree so very much, whether he’s from Berkeley or Butte, Buffalo or Boston. You might even learn something new from each other?

(Photo credit.)

Kathleen Parker thinks Village Square when Tom Brokaw asks her about a modern day John Wayne

Parker Kathleen

Last week in a forum at the Newseum in Washington D.C., sponsored by Characters Unite, a project of USA Networks to promote an appreciation of diversity, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker didn’t just mention us, she kind of called us heroes.


Kathleen, is there somebody outside the political arena who the country turns to? Is there a modern John Wayne if you will. There was time when Colin Powell filled that role for a lot of people before he went into the administration. Oprah in her own way fills that role for a lot of people. Are there others out there that you know about or that we should be paying attention to that are not getting enough attention?

I would say this: The people out there who are doing important work are not known to us because they’re not celebrities and they’re not famous and they are doing very important work in their communities. And I’ll throw out just one name: A lawyer in Tallahassee Florida named Allan Katz has done something that I think is aimed at what we’re trying to accomplish here. He and another person formed this group called “To The Village Square” and they put together a board of half Republicans and half Democrats and they get together and have civil discourse about issues of importance. They have meetings, they have dinners, the public is invited and they’re actually moving forward with actually doing substantive things in their communities. But American character is a grassroots operation. It starts there. To sign a pledge is great, but to make anything happen you have to do something and that’s what they’ve done and it’s a wonderful prototype for what we’re trying to do.

Just another reason why you should help us raise our community match for our project We the People (donate HERE).

Tom Brokaw currently hosting “Characters Unite” forum on diversity at the Newseum

Here is a promo for Characters Unite. While the forum is happening now, it appears that pre-registration is closed, but I will post the video when it is available. Very Village Square and important to watch.

Obama taps [Village Square founder] Allan Katz for Portugal post


Big Village Square news: Our co-founder former City Commissioner Allan Katz has been appointed by President Obama to serve at the Ambassador to Portugal. Check out the story HERE. Read the White House Press Release HERE. Coincidentally, we’re roasting Allan tonight! Info HERE. Can’t make it but like to honor Allan? Help us raise money for our project We the People and blow Allan’s socks off tonight with how well we did!

TOMORROW night: Allan Katz: The Roast


The Village Square holds our first fundraiser tomorrow night, Tuesday December 1, 5:30 to 7 PM at The Challenger Center with Allan Katz: The Roast, featuring Allan Katz: The Movie (and a special guest via “Satellite”). Our goal: Raise $50,000 for our project We the People. Can’t make it, you can still help by making a tax-deductible donation (Allan will receive a list of people making donations).

How is 1848 like 2013?

john stuart mill“It’s hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present state of human improvement, of placing human beings In contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.”

—John Stuart Mill, 1848

Two weeks from tonight: Village Square hosts “Allan Katz: The Roast”


We hope you’ll join us. We’ve got a fundraising goal and any small amount you can contribute can help us get there. Thankyouverymuch.

Gingrich & Sharpton channel Village Square on Meet the Press

Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan were on Meet the Press this morning discussing their mutual effort to improve America’s educational performance as a part of Race to the Top, a national competition between schools for billions of dollars. The mutual effort of these strange bedfellows screams Village Square, so here’s a sampling from their appearance (emphasis added):

Newt Gingrich: “In a time when we have a liberal Democratic president willing to take on the establishment on education and is prepared to say every state should adopt drama bold reforms, and politics is the art of the possible, our children deserve a change to see us come together to put their future above partisanship and try to find a way to take on the establishment in both parties…”

Al Sharpton: We’ve got to find the common ground. What President Obama said to us in a meeting in May, if we agree on 70% can’t we achieve that? Can’t we move forward. The problem is, we’ve all stayed within our battle lines and the kids have suffered. When we have gone out in these cities so far, the kids don’t care that he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat…”

Newt Gingrich: ‘I want to bring it down to what’s wrong with Washington today. The three of us are making a positive gamble. We’re each risking to some extent our reputation and our future to say “What if we come together? What if we achieve a breakthrough?” Now we not. But I think the country is tired of politicians finding a reason not to try to work together and not to try to gamble on the future. On this topic, the President has said publicly in speeches, which didn’t help him get the nomination, that he favored fundamental change in education even if it made the unions uncomfortable… but it does require the gamble on our part on good faith.’

Hopeful study on social isolation

(Hat tip to the Knight Foundation.)

Previous studies had indicated that trends in technology have us growing more distant from our more diverse local geographic neighborhoods in favor of dispersed weaker electronic ties.

This Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community survey finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.