HOBART — More than ever, the world needs civility in every area of life.
Thursday’s World Civility Day gala awards dinner and celebration at Avalon Manor resonated with that message and how civility can change the lives of people around the world.
“We need to understand that every person is a gift,” said Dr. Clyde Rivers, an ambassador at-large for the Republic of Burundi in Africa and founder of the Human Rights Global Congress.
“If you mistreat your brothers and sisters, we lose their contribution,” Rivers said. “We have a gift famine, not an economic famine. If we don’t treat people right, we lose their gifts. We need to learn how to live the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.”
The gala dinner brought to applause-filled conclusion to World Civility Day which included workshops at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.
Those workshops included sessions on Civility in the Community, ethics training for public employees, Civility in the Classroom and cyberbullying.
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“This has been a wonderful day,” said Chuck Hughes, executive director of the Gary Chamber of Commerce. “People from 14 states and eight nations attended the World Civility Day workshops.”
The Community Civility Counts campaign was launched in the spring of 2015 as a joint partnership between the Gary Chamber of Commerce and The Times Media Co. Hughes credits Gordon E. Bradshaw, the chamber’s public policy chairman, for bringing the idea forward at a March 2015 committee meeting and for designing a poster.
That poster caught the attention of Rivers of the Golden Rule International and president and founder of iChange Nations.
Hughes said the Community Civility Counts was born “after observing so many acts of incivility and cruel behavior … On behalf of the Gary Chamber, our board of directors and members, I want to extend a special gesture of gratitude to our civility partners from around the country and all of you who have traveled near and far to promote kindness and consideration toward your fellow man.”
He also saluted a troupe of young people from the South Shore Dance Alliances who entertained in African costumes to the beat of African drums, a performance that drew sustained applause.
“We are celebrating the nations today,” Bradshaw said in his invocation, citing the need for kindness and civility “in a world of indifference.”
During his keynote address, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said civility is a necessity if “America is going to lead the world.”
Hill said he grew up during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
“Ronald Reagan actually had a cordial relationship with (Speaker of the House) Tip O’Neill. They were able to work together on programs that helped the nation,” Hill said. “I remember one of Reagan’s comments – ‘I’d rather have half a loaf than none at all’.”
Civility, he said, needs to begin locally, within families and communities.
“We need to love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek,” Hill said. “But remember we only have two cheeks.”
Community Civility Counts has grown from a local initiative to treat others with respect into an international movement that continues to earn kudos.
“We could not have predicted, even last April when Community Civility Counts’ first World Civility Day sold out at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, that we would have a full day of outstanding workshops and an even bigger and better gala dinner in year two,” said Bob Heisse, editor of The Times Media Co.
In recent months, The Times Media Co. has also won the Associated Press Media Editors’ Innovator of the Year Award and a Lee Enterprises’ President’s Award for the Community Civility Counts initiative.
In an Editor & Publisher article about The Times, the writers specifically cited 2016 as beginning “with a high point for the initiative when the Indiana Senate unanimously approved a resolution commending the group ‘for delivering an awareness campaign to remind everyone about the need for civility and treating each other right’.” That resolution was authored by Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and supported by all 50 Senate members from both political parties.
The following week, the Indiana House of Representatives approved the same resolution authored by Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary.