It is quite impossible to read a paper, watch the news, listen to the radio, or read online news without seeing incivility, divisiveness, and anger. I try to get outside the echo chamber of people and websites that agree with my point of view. Being a good lawyer means being able to argue both sides. How can we see the weaknesses in our arguments if we do not look at them from another angle? Then add in the inescapable conclusions that foreign entities are contributing to the noise, it’s hard to know what to believe. Calls of fake news and alternative facts can leave one exhausted in the search for the truth or the facts, or even the actual opposing points of view.
Attempting to influence opinion is not new, The Federalist Papers were an attempt to influence opinion in a time long before telegraphs, telephones, and wireless connections to the internet. These 85 anonymous essays were designed to encourage support of the United States Constitution. With the usual 20/20 vision that hindsight brings, encouraging the support of the Constitution was a good thing. But at the time, it was quite controversial. The Anti-Federalists wanted stronger states' rights and a smaller centralized government. Both sides made their arguments in the press. It is a time-honored tradition in the United States to use the press to persuade.
However, I am dismayed by the level of discourse in our world. In 140 (or 280) characters people from disgruntled employees to ‘celebrities’ and world leaders to your old college roommate seem to delight in behavior that should have been left behind in grade-school. What happened to civility? What happened to being able to disagree without being disagreeable? Adams and Jefferson? Ginsberg and Scalia? That brings us to the Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Award and now the Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Lecture Series.
The inaugural Hon. William D. Missouri Civility Award went posthumously to Judge Missouri himself and was presented to his widow, Delores at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The very first lecture in the Civility Lecture Series will be offered in Chicago as part of the initial Judicial Division Bench and Bar Academy. The National Conference of State Trial Judges has taken the lead, as Judge Missouri’s home Conference before he went on to chair the Judicial Division. JD Chair-Elect, Chris Browning is leading the planning committee for the Bench and Bar Academy and wanted to showcase the Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Lecture Series. Keep an eye out for the schedule when it is ready with confirmed speakers.
In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep an open mind, shine light in the darkness, and treat everyone as I would like to be treated. Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate!