Finding civility in public life is increasingly difficult. This is especially true as we are continually bombarded with examples of incivility which remain under continuing discussion as the original offense plays out in the media. One current example is, of course, the recent comments of Rush Limbaugh on the issue of contraception, on which I will not further elaborate. Others are working hard to keep this highly negative and inflammatory story alive.
Rather I would like to take a different direction and say that I favor the more positive approach taken by Allegany College in instituting and giving its “Prize for Civility in Public Life.” The first recipients of their Prize are Mark Shields and David Brooks for their weekly commentary on the PBS News Hour. Shields and Brooks are both well-known nationally syndicated columnists, and one can see both fairness and civility in their columns. I am especially fond of Brooks’ columns, which regularly appear in the NY Times and are often later reprinted in our local paper.
For my part, I rarely miss the “Shields and Brooks” commentary on the PBS News Hour. They often talk about controversial news, and even occasionally about examples of the incivility of others. Though they hardly ever are in complete agreement, they are always quite respectful of each other in their interpretation of the news. It is hard to imagine more worthy recipients of the first “Prize for Civility in Public Life.”