Posted on Jul 10, 2019
Totem Reporter - Gary T. Smith
Seattle 4’s new president grew up in Unalakleet, a small village on the eastern shore of the Bering Sea.  Her neighbors “were caring, resourceful, and undaunted by challenges,” she said.  “When I walked into Rotary 19 years ago, it was immediately apparent the Rotarians were just as welcoming, just as caring, and just as fearless.  I felt at home.  That is why I joined Seattle 4, and I’m still here today.”
President Kim Moore laid out her vision for Seattle 4 for the coming year – to layer into the club’s ongoing service work a new commitment to connect and to welcome.  Her vision aligns with the new Rotary International theme Rotary Connects the World, announced last month in Hamburg.
“My first goal this year,” she said, “is that we take time to connect with each other.  And to ask ourselves what must we do to ensure that Rotary is here for the next 110 years.  What is our enduring value proposition so that Rotary not just survives, but thrives?  How do we ensure that Rotary is available for our children and grandchildren?  What is your ‘why’ Rotary?  What return on investment do you seek for each phase of your life?  I urge you to be bold, and to share the stories you have not yet shared.”
Her second goal, she said, was to be welcoming.  At 400 members with about 200 in attendance each week, “Seattle 4 is small enough that we can know everyone, but large enough that it takes effort.” Being welcoming meets the Four-Way test and serves our business model, she said. 
Being welcoming also serves civil discourse, she noted.  “Our membership is diverse and holds their own beliefs,” she observed, “but are respectful and even friendly to those with whom we disagree.” 
President Kim introduced 22-year club member, Father Steven Sundborg, President of Seattle University, to keynote the year’s emphasis on civic engagement and civil discourse. 
Quoting a political scientist from the 1930’s, Sundborg said “to be an American is an ideal.”
Sundborg explored what it means to be American.  He said we are constantly engaged in renewing the American ideal, that incivility occurs because America has yet to achieve its ideal of equality, that civility is essential to ultimately achieving our ideal, that civility is best understood as the conversation of citizens, that while difficult, the idea of America is worth the fight, and that ultimately, we owe this to one another. 
Here are quotes from Father Sundborg directly:
We are who we are as Americans because we are striving, struggling, fighting, disagreeing with one another, in pursuit of an idea. 
The idea of America is that we are a people who belong to one another, depend on one another, know one another, pull for one another, even love one another. 
The idea of “We, the people” is still there and we are fighting over who belongs, but we are in a period of intense pressure, friction, heat because of the challenge to include all the people in “We, the people.”  Our history is a glorious one and a shameful one.  We need to know our true history and write its continuation with an updated story of the new people we now are. 
If this is the idea of America, then what is the role of civility in reclaiming this idea?  I propose…that civility be defined as “the conversation of citizens.”  We sometimes hear the phrase “speaking truth to power;” civility is “speaking truth to one another” because we care for one another.
Civility does not mean agreement.  Rather, civility as equal citizens means agreeing on how we deal with disagreements rather than agreeing about issues. 
Civility is not politeness; it is the empathetic conversation of citizens who care for one another and want to know one another’s experience, with no one being left out of the conversation. 
Civility does not mean we don’t fight.  Our nation has been shaped by its citizens fighting with one another, but it must be a disagreeing and a fighting within belonging to one another as “We, the people…” 
There is a challenge to civility among us which is caused fundamentally by not wanting to know one another.  A University of Michigan study showed, for instance, that college students today score 40% lower than those in the 1970s in their ability to understand what another person is feeling and that the biggest drop has occurred in the years since 2000.  
…A recent poll in Washington and Oregon showed that 40% said it is not important for them to make new friends, and that 49% said they don’t even want to talk briefly or to interact with people they don’t know.  No civics lesson or course will change this.  It is an issue of belonging, caring, empathy, of who belongs in the “We” of America and who is not included.
What we need as citizens is conversation, not unbudging debate when we are together, or denigration of one another when we are apart…It is because we believe that the idea of America is worth it, that the nation is the fight itself...We need this civility because America is not a fact; it is an idea which alone binds it together as a nation.
What I have said so far about the idea of America and how civility can reclaim it relates closely to our own Rotarian “Four-Way Test.”  Nothing is more pertinent for it than our proposed year of focus on civic engagement and civil discourse. 
May the year be for us a series of conversations as citizens who speak and relate with civility because we belong to one another as Americans.
In 1630, in Salem Harbor, before landing in America, John Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, said to his fellow Puritans still aboard ship:
“We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes… our community as members of the same body.”
There’s the germ of the idea of America before we were a nation.  It is still alive and being fought for today.  It is worth being fought for, being reclaimed, being retold by all of us of this nation in the civility which is the conversation of citizens we owe one another.”
The program opened on a solemn note with Jim Moore providing a tribute to recently deceased member Steve Crane.  Mike Colbrese then led the Rotary Rogues and the club in singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Bill Center provided the Inspiration for the Day.  President Kim introduced key members of her leadership team.   
Totem Reporter:  Gary T. Smith
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