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Civics and Civility

Proud to Live in New Hampshire

Karen and Jay share thoughts on the importance of civics and civility in our political process and the critical role of the New Hampshire presidential primary.

The First in the Nation Primary is now once again complete. And, what a wonderful testament to ‘civics and civility’ on the part of Granite Staters.  The nation turns its attention to New Hampshire every four years – and consistently we come through. We take our civic responsibility seriously.  We meet the candidates and ask the tough questions – but at the same time, treat them with respect.  We listen, we are discerning, and we participate – and this year in record numbers.


It's in our blood.  From grade school onwards, we in New Hampshire are imbued with the knowledge that we hold a special position in the political process and do all we can to honor that tradition.  The New Hampshire primary holds a unique and revered position, serving as the first in the nation primary in the presidential election cycle. Our small state, with our fiercely independent electorate, plays a crucial role in shaping the trajectory of presidential campaigns. And of course, our significance lies in the rigorous scrutiny we impose on candidates.

First and foremost, the New Hampshire primary sets the tone for the rest of the presidential primaries and caucuses that follow. Being the initial contest, we offer candidates the opportunity to gain early momentum and establish themselves as viable contenders for their party's nomination. A strong showing in New Hampshire can propel a candidate forward, while a poor performance can quickly derail their campaign, making it a make-or-break moment for many hopefuls.

Moreover, the New Hampshire primary serves as a crucial testing ground for candidates' messages, policies, and campaign strategies. Candidates must engage directly with voters, participate in town hall meetings, and address pressing issues facing the state and the nation, thereby demonstrating their readiness and suitability for the presidency.

Our New Hampshire primary holds immense importance in American politics, serving as a critical barometer of public opinion and a defining moment in the presidential nomination process - reflecting the core values of democracy, accountability, and civic engagement. As such, the New Hampshire primary will continue to shape the course of presidential elections for years to come, cementing its status as a hallowed tradition in American political history!

The Greatest Civics Lesson

Brian Hettrick, Executive Director of the Sunshine Initiative is a core member of the Civics and Civility (C & C) team which for over a year and a half planned this country’s greatest civics lesson. What began initially as an idea in Fred Bramante’s head became very real on the morning of Jan 11th at the Audi Auditorium in Concord, NH. Almost 500 students from over 30 high schools attended one of the most unique events ever to be held!

Just a few short months prior, in the same venue, Governor Sununu sat down with Laura Knoy and had a conversation on Civics and Civility. This was sponsored by NH Civics as part of the Treat Lecture series. The event was well attended, and the governor reiterated time and again how important this topic is – for everyone!


And only a few weeks prior to the Governor’s event, he had signed New Hampshire Senate Bill 216, which established requirements for the teaching of civics in schools and defined a civics education. This is for all public and non-public schools in NH. They are to conduct regular courses of instruction in the history, government, and constitutions of the United States and NH, including the organization and operation of NH municipal, county, and state government and of the federal government. It also stipulated how much class time should be dedicated in the various grades on these topics.

So, with a world that is literally crying out for more civility, the C & C team decided to focus on the youth of NH – our future! This team consisted of passionate and dedicated individuals from a variety of sectors with a particular focus on education – including the School Leadership Team, which had superintendents, principals, and curriculum directors from Manchester, Laconia, and Alvirne. The C & C team created a program that was meant to help inspire and challenge high schoolers from across the state. Actually, schools from across the US and even the UK were interested.

This was a pure bipartisan effort as it was supported by the Governor who said “This event will be one that students remember for the rest of their lives. I lend my full support.”, as well as Senator Shaheen, who even did a video welcoming the students. Justin Spencer and Ryan Vezina from Recycled Percussion brought the crowd to life with a short energizing version of their show before Justin, along with Fred, introduced the ‘Keep It REAL’ tool. The team wanted something that would help the students work on changing their behavior and not just their thoughts regarding civics and civility. The K is for Kindness, the I for Integrity, the R for Respect, the E for Empathy, the A for Agreement, and the L for Listening. This was then modeled for the students in the audience by a group of students on stage led by Charlie Olsen (2021 Kid Governor) who displayed examples of both incivility as well as civility in light of ‘Make It REAL’.


Just prior to the event, physical copies of the Declaration of Civility Pledge (looking much like the original Declaration of Independence) were distributed to schools all over NH – to be signed by students who believe in this initiative. The Pledge starts out by saying, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all individuals are inherently worthy of dignity and respect, and that a world built upon the foundations of kindness, integrity, respect, empathy, agreements, and active listening shall flourish in harmony and prosperity.” It ends with a Call to Action to get on board with the Civility Movement – to shape the world, a world that celebrates diversity and stands as a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit.


The C & C team is currently working with schools, ultimately aiming to obtain over 1 million signatures from across the US and the world. These will be presented to the United Nations in the hopes of becoming the 18th amendment to the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework. To learn more about this exciting and certainly worthy Civility Movement, please visit

The Primary Leaves Town

The First in the Nation Primary holds a crucial place in New Hampshire, akin to the White Mountains or Lake Winnipesaukee. During this time, civic engagement in the state reaches an all-time high, with Granite Staters actively participating in the unofficial sport of the state: politics. Despite not everyone enjoying the endless ads and dinner debates between neighbors, there is always a slightly empty feeling when the political circus departs.


On primary night, there can only be one winner in each party, but most individuals who have worked in campaigns know that even those who do not achieve victory will express that they wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  Other than when the presidential primary comes to town, our small state doesn't usually witness the robust political organizations that establish themselves here for our Presidential Primary. Simply put, our state is too small to consistently accommodate that level of production. However, this likely works in favor of Granite Staters.


While the ads run and mailboxes fill with political clutter, authentic conversations unfold between friends and neighbors. Generally, Granite Staters have cultivated a sense of civility when navigating these challenging and tense discussions. Certainly, people support their respective sides, but at the end of the cycle, we are all proud Americans seeking the best for our state and our country. 


People's passions are rooted in a commitment to something larger than themselves, applicable to both sides of the political aisle, as much as it may be difficult to comprehend. The unique aspect of New Hampshire lies in coming together after fervently fighting before the votes are cast. Once the out-of-state political tourists have departed, we realize that our neighbors still remain. And, the civility with which we treat each other serves as the foundation for our enduring future.

Positive Profile of the Week:  Josh McElveen 

This week we are delighted to highlight a great friend and political icon in the Granite State – Josh McElveen.

Those who have turned on their TV in the Granite State would know Josh as the former WMUR-ABC-9 political director and news anchor. His coverage of politics over the years is without a doubt some of the best coverage of our primary. In fact, Josh has covered two presidential primaries and actually holds the record for moderating the most FITN debates, including the only debate that took place in New Hampshire this cycle.

Josh is a firm believer in the importance of the First in the Nation Primary. He’s aided not just media outlets but leaders in civics and education to ensure the legacy of the primary lives on. He doesn’t just do it because it’s his job; he does it because he knows how important it is. But it’s not just the political and media resume that defines Josh; it's his commitment to ensuring lives are better day in and day out.

Karen and I have personally been honored to have Josh involved in our programs. In fact, our Sunshine Report was inspired by Josh. He wanted people to be enthused, to learn something new, and ensure there was an outlet promoting positivity. And that’s what we are about. Josh has volunteered his time to help Karen and me grow the mission of Children of Fallen Patriots. He has helped organizations specializing in civics, mental health, veterans' care, and higher education. If there is a need, Josh is there to help. Even during his coverage of Hurricane Katrina while he worked at a local New Orleans news station, Josh took it upon himself to organize communities to come together to help those in need.

Is it the Marine Veteran in him that makes him committed to ensuring the lives of others are protected and cared for? I think so, but I also believe it's his heart. I am so thankful to be able to call Josh a friend and, like so many, are blessed to have him making a positive impact on the lives of fellow Granite Staters!

Quotes of the Week: Civics and Civility

"In the end, civility is not about winning or losing; it is about respecting others and seeking common ground." - Madeleine Albright


"Civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof." - John F. Kennedy


"Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos." - George W. Bush


"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison


"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." - John F. Kennedy


"Civility is the art and act of caring for others." - Deborah King


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