Comment: Officials, citizens can make pledge to build bridges

Two Snohomish County Council members are calling on all to work past incivility in our public lives.

By Jared Mead and Nate Nehring / For The Herald

Over the course of the past year, we have had the privilege of hosting multiple community town halls throughout Snohomish County on the topic of overcoming political polarization.

This Building Bridges effort has been invaluable to us as elected representatives and we hope those who have attended and participated in the various events have found value in them as well. The conversations and ideas shared at these events give us hope that by working together collectively, our community can and will make strides in overcoming political polarization.

There is no doubt that our country faces a significant challenge with the toxicity and incivility on display from both political parties. This is particularly true at the federal level, but unfortunately it has made its way into our local communities as well. Regardless of career occupation or social status, each and every one of us has an important responsibility to fulfill in ensuring that future generations of Americans are afforded the opportunity to live in a more civil and healthy society.

To that end, we have worked to develop a “Bridge-Building Pledge” which we are asking elected officials and community members to consider signing. The pledge reads as follows:

It is the duty of all people who participate in political dialogue to do so in good faith and with civility. Doing so will grow a thriving democracy built on tolerance, understanding, mutual respect, and critical thinking. I will nurture our political institutions by being respectful toward others.

In doing so, I pledge that:

• I will be kind when disagreeing and refrain from turning a political disagreement into a personal disagreement.

• I will treat people with dignity and respect regardless of their political position;

• I will remain humble in recognizing that I do not have all the answers.

• I will give others the benefit of the doubt and assume positive motives.

• I will be gracious in debating policy positions by taking on the opposing side’s strongest points rather than creating straw-man arguments.

• I will refrain from posting online anything I would not be willing to say to someone in person.

• I will challenge my beliefs and assumptions and be open to modifying my opinions in the face of new information.

• I will courageously speak my mind regardless of the audience.

• I will be equally as diligent in verifying sources and claims that support my positions as I am about those that challenge them.

• I will engage with those with whom I disagree and be open to learning something new from them.

• I will foster an environment of trust, respect and transparency by choosing not to take advantage of the missteps of others.

• I will practice active listening to avoid thinking of counterpoints while others are speaking.

• I will contemplate how my life experiences and personal history inform my biases.

“• I will think independently and critically about policy positions absent the influence of party platform or political leaders.

• I will treat others the way I would want to be treated.

By signing this pledge, I commit to these principles, understanding their importance in building a more respectful society.

My signature is a promise to myself and my community to strive towards these ideals and build bridges with others.

The work of overcoming political polarization is critical and we look forward to opportunities in 2024 to continue engaging with the community to take positive steps forward. In response to common suggestions from community members, the two of us have decided to co-found a Building Bridges non-profit with the mission of fostering a more civil society for future generations.

This effort will focus on working with young people to think critically about policy positions independent of party platforms, develop techniques for engaging in healthy discourse on difficult subjects in the age of social media and prioritize treating others (especially those who think differently) with dignity and respect. This work is of particular importance to us as the parents of young children. We are hopeful that by continuing to engage in this effort, our community can work together to build a better future for all of our children.

If you are interested in learning more about the Building Bridges effort, pledge, or non-profit, please contact us at any time or visit our website at TheBuildingBridgesProject.org.

Additionally, we’d love for you to consider joining us for our first inaugural Building Bridges Summit. This event will take place on Monday, December 4th at 6:00pm at the WSU Everett campus and will feature Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, former Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, and a panel of local leaders dedicated to overcoming political polarization.

Jared Mead, a Democrat, is the chair of the Snohomish County Council. He lives in Mill Creek with his wife Krystal and their three children. Email him at Jared.Mead@snoco.org.

Nate Nehring, a Republican, is the vice chair of the Snohomish County Council. He lives in Arlington with his wife Savannah and their three children. Email him at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org.

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