I believe that we all need to work to improve our democracy in the USA by learning how to participate as active citizens in our government and by learning how to have productive, respectful and civil dialogue with people that have different experiences and beliefs. The Institute for Civility in Government offers experiential learning in these two areas with some excellent programs that are supported by generous donors.
I am most familiar with their Student Legislative Seminar in Washington, DC program and have participated over the last two years first as a community observer and then as a co-leader. This program brings high school students to Washington, DC where they learn about monuments, memorials, museums, government buildings and offices, the arts and public transportation systems in addition to receiving briefings on key issues chosen by the students and preparing statements that they deliver personally to their elected officials or their staffs.
Both of my student groups came from rural Texas high schools and for many of them this was a tremendous learning opportunity in which they learned how to travel by air, Metro, bus and foot in addition to learning about their government and Washington, DC. They learned a great deal about the complexities of their chosen issues and prepared clear, reasoned and in some cases provocative statements for their officials. We received appreciation from the Senate and House staffs for the quality and thoughtfulness of the student statements and the students received feedback as well on the what and why of the official positions. Overall I felt it was a good exchange and learning opportunity for all. Many students said that the experience opens their eyes to how they can make a meaningful impact and in some cases to pathways they will take after high school.
I will continue to support the Institute for Civility in Government both financially and as a volunteer because I believe it is making a very positive contribution to improving understanding, participation and impact on effective governing of our country. By also supporting the Institute you can help expand our reach to include more students in our programs and hopefully create a nucleus of prepared and motivated citizens for the future.
I have supported this Institute from it's beginning. I had held local elective office and worked in political campaigns and with our political system as a Pricinct Chairman and Election Judge for more than 30 years. Founders Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath had a vision of the partisan future and the critical need for civility in government. They hold seminars, primarily in churches and schools, which include volunteer elected officials participating. Mostly U. S. Congressmen and Senators have found this a valuable forum for them with thier constituents, especially youngsters. Needless to say, the Institute has grown steadily. They have taken groups, adults and students, to Washington, D.C., to meet legislators and their staffs to ask questions and present positions on issues of concern. The Institute depends heavily on contributions from individual supporters and churches. Their results have become obvious and they now have many individual stories of successes effecting those who have participated in their work. All contributions are applied to their work. There are no paid staff. The Institute deserves your support, how ever small or large. I am not affiliated with the Institute; only a contributor.
This non-profit advances the cause of civility, both in government and in all public speech. The Institute for Civility in Government works with high school students, especially those from disadvantaged or difficult backgrounds; organizes and hosts conferences on college campuses with speakers from both of the major political parties; works directly with Congress to promote civility, and offers offers civility training to any group or organization that is interested. The organization carefully does NOT take positions on issues, rather, chooses to work with people from all political positions, all backgrounds. The two co-founders have labored selflessly for 15 years to bring this organization and its quest for civility to the forefront. It's work is beginning to pay off. Many other organizations have recently jumped on the band wagon of civility, but the Institute was talking about civility before it was popular to do so. The work the Institute is doing with high school students is remarkable, transforming even gang members into productive memberes of society.