Local leaders are careful to remain unified during a time of national disunity.
Gov. John Kasich isn't the only one concerned about ugly discourse heard these days in political chambers, business boardrooms and civic arenas—even at family dinner tables.
While Kasich toured the country and appeared on TV talk shows in recent weeks to promote his latest book, TWO PATHS: America Divided or United, former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and Columbus Partnership President and CEO Alex Fischer also have been encouraging conversation around civility.
As this issue of Columbus CEO went to print, Coleman was hosting about 100 central Ohio business, civic and political leaders for a private conversation with Kasich, Fischer, himself and their wives at his Ice Miller law office in the Arena District. Spouses were included because they share concerns about civility in their own leadership roles, Coleman says.
This area already is known in some circles for the Columbus Way, recognized by no less than Harvard University for the collaborative way corporate and government leaders approach community improvement projects. Now Fischer and Coleman are behind a movement to add civility to the city's brand, too.
Coleman is especially passionate about what he calls “the three Cs.”
“We believe in the three Cs: civility, collaboration and community good. And that is against the grain today, but it is also what sets us apart and is the reason our city has progressed,” he says when asked about this new focus on civility.
Coleman says he first raised the notion of promoting civility with Fischer about a year ago, prompted by what he had seen “in the general political and cultural environment, and even the business environment.” He describes “a devolution into disrespect, name-calling, not acknowledging each other's differences; that you're wrong, I'm right, and because you're wrong in your opinion, that you're a bad person.”
But practicing the three Cs is what has won Columbus national accolades and put the city under a global spotlight for its Smart Columbus work on the future of transportation, Coleman says.
Fischer points to a personal experience several months ago that highlighted the importance of promoting civility. He was flying to New Orleans with Partnership members Les and Abigail Wexner, Mark Kvamme and Nancy Kramer to visit the National World War II Museum for ideas for the National Veterans Memorial & Museum being built on the Scioto Peninsula.
“I don't even remember whatever the news of the morning was that was dominating CNN and the newspapers before we took off, but whatever it was, it caused us to almost get in a fight. … everybody was just really frustrated. And we were kind of sitting there looking at each other going, gosh, this is what Washington is doing to us. They're ripping our families apart,” Fischer recalls. The incident prompted conversation around civility, “and all of us came home and started thinking about it in different ways.”
Inside the Columbus Partnership boardroom, Fischer says CEOs are asking, “‘How do we do our part to take the culture and how we collaborate and try to encourage others to do that?' We increasingly are beginning to think about the set of activities and programs and dialogue around civility and collaboration and community and how the three are interlinked. That's the genesis of my collaboration with Mayor Coleman,” he says.
Coleman sees members of Congress from central Ohio as being “cut from the same cloth” as other civic and corporate leaders who are steeped in the three Cs. “Our nation could probably take a lesson from how we do things in Columbus, how we come to positive results by the power of the three Cs,” he says.
Maybe, the former mayor adds, “This could be the beginning of a national conversation right here.”
Now wouldn't that be nice?