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INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb has declared that he's committed to leading Indiana with civility, and believes all Hoosiers similarly should practice civility in their professional and personal lives.

Speaking last week at a luncheon for central Indiana Boy Scouts, the Republican said incidents of incivility, poor character and lackluster leadership are all too prevalent these days — particularly in politics.

"There's too much shouting, not enough listening. Too much finger-pointing and tearing down, not enough finding common cause and working toward common solutions," Holcomb said.

"This 'my way or the highway, take-no-prisoners' approach is both dangerous and counterproductive. It prevents us from making progress on the many real issues we need to tackle — whether as a state or a country."

'A house divided'

Invoking President Abraham Lincoln, Holcomb repeated the Great Emancipator's famous warning: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Holcomb suggested that a true commitment to civility might be what can keep our badly divided nation from further fracturing.

"Civility doesn’t mean we put all our differences aside," he said. "But it demands that we listen to and respect people, their ideas and different points of view other than our own."

He pointed out that civility is embedded in the Boy Scout Law that encourages scouts to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

At the same time, Holcomb noted, each one of those characteristics only has meaning in relation to other people — just as civility does.

"Civility isn't just an end in itself, its about forging a team, taking advantage of diverse talents and ideas, being effective and getting things done," Holcomb said.

"Vigorous debate over tough issues doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us stronger. It's essential for finding the best path forward."

Unity through civility

The governor said it's no coincidence that the national motto of the most successful country in history — "E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one" — is a proclamation of unity among Americans.

"That's not just because life is better when you’re not trying to tear each other down, but, to be effective, to bring Indiana to the next level, requires everybody digging in," Holcomb said.

Or, to put it another way: "If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle," said the former naval intelligence officer.

"That's where civility comes in. If you're civil, you’ll increase your chances of finding friends and allies and mentors and partners who will help you succeed."

A sixth pillar

Holcomb said he recognizes that the five pillars of his "Next Level" agenda will rise only if civility is the unofficial sixth pillar supporting all the rest.

Therefore, Holcomb vowed that he will be a model of civility for Hoosiers, and likewise will ask for civility from those he works with and state legislators of both political parties.

"And if you ever think I've crossed a line, call me out," he said.

The governor also urged Hoosiers to make civility the lodestar of their own lives, even when it's difficult to do so, because ultimately the benefits of civility rebound far higher than the fleeting feelings that come from, for example, shouting someone down.

"When you come across people with ideas different than your own, don't dismiss them. Hear them out. Be civil," Holcomb said. "You will be the stronger for it — and so will we."

Civility counts

Holcomb's civility call is similar to the Nov. 21 Organization Day message of House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, who said scurrilous in-person and online attacks have no place in the Statehouse.

"Some of you, here in the building, encourage incivility, you encourage misrepresentation, you participate in the vilification of others, you are insensitive to those who are hurting and those who are misunderstood, and I would only encourage you to stop," Bosma said.

The cause of civility also has been championed for the past three years through the Community Civility Counts program, sponsored by The Times Media Co. and the Gary Chamber of Commerce.

Their third annual World Civility Day is set for April 12 featuring civility-themed activities at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond and an awards dinner at Avalon Manor in Merrillville.


Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.