Nehring: If adults don’t always, youths know need for civility

Discussions with students showed they understand the duty to ‘take the high road’ in public discourse.

Nate Nehring

Nate Nehring

“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.”

–President William McKinley

By Nate Nehring / Herald Forum

Given the litany of challenges our communities have faced over the past year and a half, finding silver linings has been difficult.

When asked to write a piece for this community forum, I spent some time reflecting on the things that have given me hope for the future. One of the most encouraging experiences I’ve had over the last year or so has been connecting with local high school students on the importance of civil discourse and political engagement.

I’ve had the privilege of joining County Council member Jared Mead in participating in classroom discussions, town halls, and other forums to dialogue with students on these important subjects. With the present toxicity of our political climate and the lack of tolerance for ideological diversity, it was no surprise that the first questions students asked included “Why would you want to be involved in politics at all?” and “How do you deal with the tension and fighting?” These types of questions are indicative of how far our society has fallen in terms of civility and common courtesy.

In conversing with these students about the importance of participating in the political process and showing respect to those we disagree with, I was so inspired by these young leaders’ moral commitment to “taking the high road.” They immediately seemed to recognize the innate value and dignity of each individual person as if it were the simplest truth in the world. And why should it be any different for the rest of us?

It is a serious responsibility of each of us in our own capacities as citizens to set a positive example for the next generation. To my pleasant surprise, it seems that they are the ones setting the example for us.

It is my sincere hope that all of us in public leadership positions, from school board directors and city councilmembers to state and federal representatives, can resolve to rise above the hatred and bitterness which has become too commonplace in our discourse, and instead work together to build a society our young people can be proud of.

Nate Nehring serves on the Snohomish County Council, representing the 1st District. He lives in Arlington.

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