On March 28, ETSU kicked off its annual Civility Week, a week dedicated to encouraging individuals with different perspectives to work together and spread peace around campus.
As part of Civility Week, ETSU’s chapter of Young America’s Foundation was able to bring Newt Gingrich, the 50th speaker of the house, to campus to speak about civility in politics.
While America is approaching one of the most important elections of this generation, political life is currently booming in multiple forms of the media. Gingrich’s non-partisan lecture was something that not only had ETSU students lining up outside the doors, but also had members of the community lining up to hear what he had to say.
In addition to serving as former speaker of the house, Gingrich is a historian, political consultant, author and 2012 presidential candidate.
“When I talk about civility, I don’t mean avoiding conflict,” Gingrich explained. “The notion of civility is in fact something we don’t spend enough time on. We don’t appreciate how deeply it is a part of the fabric of a free society.”
Throughout the lecture, Gingrich said it is important to remember that everyone has different ideas and perspectives.
“Keeping passion within boundaries is vital for remaining civil in politics,” Gingrich said.
He added, “Everyone has a right to their own opinion. It’s important to understand the opposing argument and where their perspective comes from.”
He explained that his words to live by are listen, learn, help and lead.
“You don’t know what someone is saying unless you listen,” he said. “You learn when you ask questions, and you help when asked for advice. After listening, learning and helping, you will be asked to lead.”
Gingrich went on to say that in the real world, there are real-world problems. Many believe part of the problem is the lack of civility in politics today.
For millennial voters, he advised, “You remain civil by listening to the person you disagree with and respecting each other.”
In the press conference before the lecture, Gingrich said, “We’ve got a lot of big things to talk about, so we don’t need to get down in the gutter and talk badly about each other.”
At the close of the lecture, Chris Dula, ETSU psychology professor, expressed his opinion of Gingrich’s lecture.
“Gingrich outlines how one could be partisan and remain civil, which is an important perspective to have especially in the current political climate,” Dula said. “In order to learn to respect people, you have to understand people, and that’s critical in today’s society.”