Put the Civil Back in “Civilized”

When George Washington became the first President of a Republic instead of becoming it’s first king, that was a completely remarkable event at the time. It caused royalty, national leaders and people from around the world to marvel at such a feat of civility.

As important as this first step in our nation was at the time, those same world leaders in their royal chambers waited for the REAL test. What would America do when they have their first competitive election with citizens voting to change who will lead the government? Would we be civilized?

If you think our elections are wild, these early election campaigns would look familiar to us, without the digital distractions of today. Instead of mountains of megabytes, they printed barrels of ink on forests of paper while talking over each other in public debate. Some things haven’t changed.

When it came time to change governmental power from the two-termed first President to the second, Mr. John Adams, it happened peacefully. Peacefully. No battle of armies between generals. No. It was civilized.

The election campaigning between Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and their running mates was rather heated and chaotic. Sound familiar? But an early twist of the election rules named the highest vote-getter as President, and the second highest vote-getter as Vice President!

Political opponents were actually matched up in the new government with each other. Mr. Jefferson waited patiently as VP like Mr. Adams did as Mr. Washington’s VP and ran again to become the third US President. It’s hard to imagine how that would work today. These early elections were raucous and emotional, but they ended with relative civility.

THIS was the test kings and rulers from around the world watched with bated breath. And it happened — the United States pulled it off. The peaceful transfer of power. The question was of course, how long could we keep it up?

Please, can we put the civil back into our national civility? Blaming “those people” or anyone who didn’t vote like you as a public enemy just won’t get us there. I’ve even seen employers from both sides post they don’t hire people who don’t vote like them.

Someone has to be the adult in the room and show civility, respond with civility, and nurture civility back from the shadows into the light of day. Perhaps “they” make demands and don’t listen… do you?

Civility doesn’t wait for the other person to listen, ask thoughtful questions, consider another point of view, or show respect for other human beings. It seeks to understand then be understood. Civility takes the first step. And the second. And the third. Civility has a backbone and standards of conduct that build up the human spirit.

Civil minded people don’t wait to be civil. Neither should we.



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Paul Berggren

Paul Berggren


I help people listen and learn from each other. As President of Crown Global HR, I bring clarity to growing and hiring people.