09 May 2009

Communitarianism, Don Eberly, and a Graduation Day Speech

Don Eberly, having worked in government/public service for 25 plus years as a Congressional and Presidential aid/advisor, delivered the commencement address for Millersville University a few Saturdays back and I was lucky enough to be part of the rained-on and then sun-burned family and friends in attendance. Thank you Jonathan, my brother-in-law and housemate, for graduating now and not a little while ago :). Seriously.

According to Wikipedia, Eberly is a proponent of communitarianism much of which, now having read what that word means, his speech explores in practical examples for the everyday citizen and most basically for the then graduating student. The idea of a more civil society seemed to be at the heart of Eberly's talk and, from what I gather, his recent work. I couldn't have been happier to hear these ideas publicly praised and framed as foundational to the future of the world in such a setting. Was I surprised? Yes, especially, as many of his would-be compatriots point out, since he served in two highly polarizing Republican White House administrations (Reagan and Bush II). But what of it? I for one, am thankful that this tempered and generous view was somehow a part of those times. Who knows where we would have gone without it!

Here is a key section of Don Eberly's speech for your enjoyment:

"So in a political culture awash in gall, extend to others respect and civility, and if Lincoln is to be believed, you will have access to minds everywhere. New technologies have dramatically expanded the capacity for everyone to speak, giving each of us the equivalent of a megaphone. But I am not sure we have equally expanded our capacity to listen, or to search for wisdom behind the noise.

We have been a society of factions and competing interests from the beginning, and up to a point this is natural and healthy. But we must not become a tribal society -— each in his own corner, organizing his own lobby, tuning in to his own media channel — each basically looking at our country's challenges strictly through the eyes of his own faction.

Don't misunderstand: You should know what you believe, hold to your beliefs, and be prepared to defend those beliefs through reasoned debate. But treat others and their opinions as you would have them treat you and yours. Your critics have something important to offer you; if nothing else, they can sharpen and refine your views.

We must remind ourselves that we are not Republicans, Democrats or Independents first; we are CITIZENS of a nation that welcomes dissent and debate; indeed, our leaders depend upon it for accountability."

You can find the full text of Don's speech entitled "Serving in the Spirit of Lincoln", from which this was lifted, at http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/236992 .

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