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4-Hers Urged to Join Civility Effort


Published: Friday, April 13, 2018

The following is from Brian Wibby, Michigan State University Extension educator.

Every day, 4-H'ers are rolling up their sleeves in service as they lead positive change that empowers their peers and their communities. Four-H members are not afraid of a challenge, and in fact, they are the kind of folks known to seek out challenges they can help solve with their knowledge, leadership skills and fierce resolve.

This April, Michigan 4-H members are being challenged to take on one of the most significant and widespread problems currently facing our nation: incivility. Four-H members can help revive civility across Michigan by doing something many youth are already experts at doing: texting and talking!

Civility is defined by the National Institute for Civil Discourse as showing mutual respect toward one another. At a time when it seems harder than ever for people to agree on major issues, 93 percent of the public agrees the nation has a civility problem, according to the latest installment of Civility in America, a national survey from Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate that was conducted with KRC Research.

"Despite a daily barrage of partisan conflict, Americans from both political parties are generally united in the belief that uncivil behavior is rampant and having profound and negative effects on our democracy," according to Weber Shandwick.

The survey also found something else that most Americans agree on: 92 percent of the public cited civility as being an important part of our democracy. According to the research, the vast majority of Americans believe incivility leads to intolerance of free speech, less political engagement and is a deterrent to entering public service.

Text, Talk, Revive Civility is a program of the National Institute for Civil Discourse that combines text messaging with face-to-face dialogue in an effort to spark conversations that will help restore civility in America. Michigan 4-H members can participate in the program by gathering a group of friends and family and texting CIVILITY to 89800. An ideal group size is three to five people. The group will receive a series of text messages that will help them to facilitate "a fun and engaging conversation on the importance of civility and how to revive it in our democracy and everyday lives," according to the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

The self-paced program will guide participants through a series of discussion questions, videos, social media interactions and polling questions. Over the course of about one hour, participants will discover new ideas and perspective and build skills to have a respectful dialogue.

According to the National Institute for Civil Discourse, the Text, Talk, Revive Civility program is being implemented because of the need "for everyone to work together to find solutions to our nation's most pressing problems." The program helps participants develop the abilities to work together and listen to others who may not share the same perspectives.

The Michigan 4-H Text, Talk and Revive Civility Challenge is being issued by Michigan State University Extension as part of the annual True Leaders in Service initiative, which unites 4-H members across the country in making a collective, positive impact in their communities. All 4-H youth, parents and volunteers are encouraged to venture out into their community to lend a helping hand in a way that is meaningful to them during the month of April: neighborhood clean-ups, beautification projects, food and donation drives and much more!

The month-long community service activation will officially kick off the first day of April and culminate with the National 4-H Day of service on April 28. Visit True Leaders in Service (www.4-h.org/true-leaders-in-service) to access a planning guide and learn more about the True Leaders in Service initiative.

All 4-H members who complete a service project during the month of April, including those who complete the Text, Talk, Revive Civility chal-lenge, are encouraged to register their project (https://4-h.org/get-involved/true-leaders-in-service/#!event-registration) at True Leaders in Service. By registering each project, we can measure and share the significant positive impact 4-H members have in Michigan as part of the True Leaders in Service initiative.

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