Civility- Our American Future Depends On It
Karen and Jay share the importance and joy of simply being friendly.
Civility and the warmth of human friendship. It is only on this basis that we can move forward as Americans with a common purpose. The human touch, seeing each other as valued individuals, treating each other with respect. Importantly, recognizing that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Today, with our political discourse so very bitter and divisive, I can’t think of a more important imperative than to restore a sense of civility and ‘friendship’ to our public life. Our success as a nation depends on it – and in truth, it always has.
Often when we think of the birth of the United States, we envision our founding fathers as having been a group of men fully unified in their visions for how our then newly founded nation should be governed. It was at many times however, a very fractured group, where disagreement was the norm, not the exception. One of the most famous examples of this was the tedious and sometimes outright contentious relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, our 2nd and 3rd presidents respectively, who were sometimes considered adversaries. Adams was what was known then as a Federalist and Jefferson an anti-federalist, both holding very different views on how the Constitution itself should be interpreted. There was even a point when they didn’t speak for a period of 12 years following a bitter election which saw Jefferson become the third President. Yet the two held each other in very high regard, and even after years of bitterness, the two men put their differences aside out of respect for the other. They wrote each other letters on issues of life, politics, philosophy and government, with John Adams once writing to Jefferson, “correspondence with you is one of the most agreeable events in my life.” They did so until they each passed away within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of independence.
Their demonstration of mutual respect and affection towards each other regardless of our political beliefs is one of the moral tenets of our nation. It’s a principle that stands as the cornerstone of our society where so many varying ideas, opinions, and philosophies can only co-exist because we respect the rights of others to their own, for the sake of our own. It’s the underlying premise of the First Amendment our two founding fathers helped to craft. ,
The example set by Adams and Jefferson is but one of many found throughout our history, however. More recently, following an presidential assassination attempt in 1981, former House Speaker Tip O’Neill went to Ronald Reagan’s bedside to pray for him. "While neither man embraced the other's worldview, each respected the other's right to hold it. Each respected the other as a man,” Speaker O’Neill’s son wrote of his father’s relationship with President Reagan. The late Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy, who despite being on opposite sides of the aisle for years shared a deep mutual respect for one another and considered each other close friends and colleagues. The same can be said of Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose interpretations of the Constitution as Supreme Court Justices could not have been more different. Yet the two shared a love of opera and often vacationed together with their families.
There is a quote often attributed to the French writer Voltaire, whose work informed part of our own Constitution, notably the First Amendment, that reads, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The quote, actually written by English writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her book The Friends of Voltaire, emphasizes that in an imperfect system like our own, where we may not agree with the opinion of our neighbors, respecting their right to a difference of opinion is how we are shown the same respect. It’s also a guarantee that preserves the relative peace we are fortunate to enjoy and creates the basis for our way of life. So, while these times may feel polarized, it’s important to remind ourselves that even though we may disagree with some of our neighbors and peers, they’re still our fellow Americans, and that should be a bond no person or belief can take away from us.
Common Ground – Celebrating Friendship
The fiercest opponents coming together for a purpose larger than themselves. Rivals who become allies for the common good. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
In 1992, they were bitter political enemies during the election that Clinton ultimately won. Yet in 2004, parts of Asia were ravished by a massive tsunami. Cities and towns were wiped out. Lives lost, and billions of dollars in aid were needed in order to put these communities back together. And so, putting aside their differences, Bush Sr. and Clinton traveled the globe, raised the funds, and worked together to help so many people in need.
But, more than that, they also became personal friends. They had an opportunity to truly get to know the other person. Develop an understanding of each other’s backgrounds and values. Have a sense for what made the other guy tick? Not to mention – the very rare shared experience of serving as our nation’s leader. It is on these rare occasions – when we put political differences aside for the moment and find common ground as individuals, as Americans, that we have the opportunity to make positive progress together. If we can all resolve to rise above, share a common vision of a bright future and treat each other as valued individuals.
For those who want to learn more on how these two become good friends I invite you to read the piece from Time Magazine.
Raymond, NH – Founded on Freedom!
Raymond, New Hampshire sits near the center of Rockingham County in the southeastern part of the State. Raymond was quite literally founded on freedom. Originally called “Freetown”, it was incorporated in 1764 because it did not have a requirement that tall pine trees be reserved for masts for the Royal English Navy. It is said that agents of the King would explore the forest and mark the trees that would become the property of the crown by marking the trees with an “R”, which was short for Rex, or the Latin term for king. The town’s current name is heavily disputed but one of the explanations worth noting: “Raymond was taking a new and classical (name), one that shows that there are minds not disposed to tread all the time in one path, but capable of thinking and advancing," and that the word "Raymond" means "the lustrous, luminous or shining world."
In the early years, Raymond also became noted for its militias. Troops would gather in Raymond from the surrounding towns and compete to see who had the best militia. Militias were judged based on their ability to execute formations, marksmanship, and the creativity of their uniforms! Alas, the state abolished the militias in the mid 1840’s and the gatherings are no more.
One fun fact about a former Raymond resident. During his Boston Red Sox playing days, Hall of Fame catcher, Carlton Fisk lived in Raymond. He recounted how he would finish a night game at Fenway Park and then enjoy the quiet drive back home to Raymond, NH, late at night and then appreciate such a peaceful place to relax and decompress.
Today, Raymond is a quiet town of a little more than 10,000 residents situated on Rt 101. It is a town that prides itself on its history and is a lovely bedroom community for those wishing to work in Manchester or the surrounding area. Also, simply a great community conveniently located to enjoy New Hampshire’s treasures – whether it be a trip down 101 to our beautiful seacoast or straight shot up I-93 to visit our lakes or mountains. Raymond is definitely worth a visit!
Positive Profile of the Week: Wayne MacDonald
Loyalty, Mentor, ‘Go to Guy,’ Statesman. These are just a few words that describe this week’s profile, The Honorable Wayne MacDonald.
My friend Wayne MacDonald personifies the theme of this week’s Sunshine Report. As leader of the Republican Party on multiple occasions, Wayne has consistently been a force for civility, a voice of reason and a model of decency. Moreover, Wayne has done and continues to do all this with a genuine sense of humility.
Wayne has advised elected officials up and down the ballot and has given guidance to activists through training, support, and a guiding hand. He has served at the local level as a Town Chairman and as Chair of the Rockingham County Republican Committee. He has served multiple terms as Vice Chairman of the State Republican Party and on two occasions has served as State Party Chairman. Consistently, getting things done with a cheerful positive attitude – an approachable style – and friendly personality.
Working alongside Governor John H. Sununu, Wayne played a pivotal role in the 2009-2010 party success where Republicans won 7 out of 8 special elections, 2 mayoral seats, took back both congressional seats, swept all 5 seats on the Executive Council, created super majorities in both the State House and State Senate, and more!.
Beyond politics, Wayne has also served our Granite State proudly, retiring just this past year after completing a distinguished career as a fraud investigator. Working tirelessly to ensure that those in need received the services they deserved while preventing others from manipulating the system.
Following Wayne's retirement after decades of state service, he put his name before the people of Londonderry and was elected to the House of Representatives in 2020. Wayne is now serving with his fellow legislators committed to fiscal responsibility and accountability. And, it’s so very great to know that Wayne is now on the scene and in position to bring a renewed sense of civility to the legislative body. I know that when things might get a bit heated, we can expect to see Wayne ready to bring factions together for the common good. It’s just the wonderful type of person Wayne is.
Thanks, Wayne, for all that you do!
Quotes of the Week: Respect
“This world of ours... must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
“We don't need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
Bryant H. McGill
“There is no respect for others without humility in one's self.”
Henri Frederic Amiel
“I think the country's getting disgusted with Washington partly because of the decline of civility in government.”