Choosing Civility: Escaping our Internet Bubbles

Many people today are lamenting the polarization of our politics.  This is not just an American phenomenon.  The cover story in this week’s Economist Magazine, a British publication, discusses “Britain’s Missing Middle.”  Part of what fuels the polarization today is our ability to choose the sources of our news and create an Internet bubble or echo chamber in which our views are repeated but not challenged.  In 2014, The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of conservatives and liberals to explore this polarization in detail.  Among the findings of the study, which can be found here, were the following:

Overall, the study finds that consistent conservatives:

  • Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.
  • Express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey. At the same time, fully 88% of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.
  • Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.
  • Are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.

By contrast, those with consistently liberal views:

  • Are less unified in their media loyalty; they rely on a greater range of news outlets, including some – like NPR and the New York Times– that others use far less.
  • Express more trust than distrust of 28 of the 36 news outlets in the survey. NPR, PBS and the BBC are the most trusted news sources for consistent liberals.
  • Are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics.
  • Are more likely to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.

While the Internet enables us to create our own personal bubbles, it also enables us, with little effort, to broaden our sources of news and commentary and perhaps increase our ability to understand better the opinions of those who hold different views than our own.  I recently came across an excellent site for doing just that.  It is AllSides.com.  Allsides presents news stories from the right, the center and the middle.  For example, here is AllSides’ lead story on today’s website:

AllSides

 

I have been using AllSides for the past three weeks and have found it to be an excellent tool for breaking out of my bubble.  You can learn more about AllSides by watching this two-minute video interview AllSides’ founder.

While you are at it, take a look at this TED Talk on “How to Have Better Political Conversations.”  https://www.ted.com/talks/robb_willer_how_to_have_better_political_conversations I think you will find it interesting.

Rodney Martin, Diversity Partner

Warner holds “World Café” to Discuss “Choosing Civility”

Warner Norcross & Judd held a “world café” discussion of this year’s One Book, One Firm selection, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct , by P.M. Forni.  Attorneys and staff members participated in small group discussions of civiity.  The discussion was “served” in three courses, along with the meal.  During the first course, participants worked on developing a definition of civility and discussed the implications of that meaning for them.

After the first course, participants changed tables and joined a new group for the second course, where they discussed the relevance of Forni’s 25 rules of civility to Warner Norcross and tried to identify the five rules that are most important to the firm.

For the third course, the participants once again changed tables and joined a new group. During this course (and over dessert) they discussed the obstacles to living by the rules of civility and what they can do individually to support the firm in choosing civility.

The discussion was moderated by Dr. Beth Page who leads the Talent Management Practice in the Great Lakes Region for Right Management.

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Warner Norcross Selects Choosing Civility for One Book, One Firm

Choosing CivilityWarner Norcross & Judd LLP has selected Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni as the 2017 choice for its One Book, One Firm series.

The One Book, One Firm program explores diversity and inclusion issues during a summer lunch-and-learn program. Diversity Partner Rodney Martin launched the annual event in 2008 to model the success of community reading programs that encourage all residents of a city to read and discuss the same book.

Choosing Civility confronts society’s noticeable lack of respectful behavior by detailing 25 “rules” that Forni finds essential for restoring civility. His commonsense list, delivered in clear and often clever language, touches on a number of topics, including: Respect the opinions of others; Refrain from idle complaints; Care for your guests; Accept and give praise.

“Recent research shows that 70 percent of American’s believe incivility has reached crisis levels. Yet civility is a fundamental requirement of an inclusive society and an inclusive organization,” Martin said. “Forni’s guidebook provides practical, real-life advice to improve interpersonal relationships and makes for an enjoyable read. The rules he suggests should make for some thought-provoking discussion.”Forni is an award-winning professor at Johns Hopkins University, where he has taught for the past 20 years. In 1997, he co-founded the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, which explores the “significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society.” In his lectures, he frequently talks about the rewards of fostering a culture or civility in today’s workplace.

Previous selections for One Book, One Firm have included: The Arrival, by Shaun Tan, Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange History of Integration of America, by Tanner Colby; Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, by Bich Minh Nguyen; and The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work”by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson.

Warner Norcross & Judd Releases its 11th Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report

DAR2016-pg-1-graphic-thumbnail_1For the past 11 years, Warner Norcross & Judd has reported annually about its efforts to become a more diverse and inclusive organization.  The 2016 Report has just been issued and is available on the firm’s website, along with past reports, by clicking here.  The Report includes a letter from the firm’s Managing Partner, Doug Dozeman, and profiles that highlight Warner Norcross female attorneys who are leaders across the state and other individuals who have unique stories of why they joined the firm.  In addition, the Report includes articles about the firm’s Martin Luther King, Jr. , Essay Contest for students in the Grand Rapids Public Schools, the firm’s 2016 One Book, One Firm program that discussed the immigrant experience, and the firm’s unique collaboration with the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre to bring to the stage productions that focus on issues related to diversity and inclusion.

MLK Essay Contest Winners Recognized by the Grand Rapids Board of Education

Last evening, the Grand Rapids Board of Education recognized the winners and honorable mention recipients in this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.  Rodney Martin, the firm’s Diversity Partner, introduced the winners, who each had an opportunity to read their essay during the public meeting.  Mr. Martin then introduced each of the 24 honorable mention recipients, who came forward to receive their awards.  You can read the winning essays here.

This was the 12th year that Warner Norcross & Judd has conducted the essay contest for sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Over 300 students from 12 different middle schools submitted essays that responded to one of three prompts concerning the legacy of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The essays were read and judged by over 50 attorneys and staff members at Warner.  Here are photos of the winners, and the honorable mention recipients.

The Winners of the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest (left to right): Tess Cepaitis, Grand Prize, Riverside Middle School; Myaja Dunning, 1st Runner Up, Gerald R. Ford Academic Center; and Carmen Perdomo, 2nd Runner Up, Southwest Community Campus

The Winners of the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest (left to right): Tess Cepaitis, Grand Prize, Riverside Middle School; Myaja Dunning, 1st Runner Up, Gerald R. Ford Academic Center; and Carmen Perdomo, 2nd Runner Up, Southwest Community Campus

The winners and honorable mention recipients in the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

The winners and honorable mention recipients in the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

Warner Norcross Announces Winners of MLK Essay Contest

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a major impact on the lives of many and his legacy still rings true today. This year, Warner Judd Norcross LLP asked sixth grade students in Grand Rapids to enter an essay contest to discuss the lasting impacts of his legacy. Now in its 12th year, the contest asks students to explore the work of Dr. King. Students wrote about the impact he had on equal rights in society, a conversation they would have with Dr. King or the impact of one of his many famous quotes has had on their lives. The competition is open to all sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools district.

This year the firm received 314 essay submissions from 10 different schools. Essays were judged by more than 50 Warner Norcross attorneys and staff according to Michigan Education Assessment Program guidelines for narrative writing. The essays were evaluated for ideas, organization, style and conventions.

This year’s winners are:

  • Tess Cepaitis, Riverside Middle School, Grand Prize
  • Myaja Dunning, Gerald R. Ford Academic Center, First Runner-Up
  • Carmen Perdomo, Southwest Community Center, Second Runner-Up

Each winning student will receive a a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  Additionally, 24 students from seven schools received honorable mention recognition. They each will receive a gift card to Schuler Books and Music. Every student who submitted an essay will receive a certificate of participation.Cepaitis and all winners are invited to attend the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Program held Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Fountain Street Church. All winners will be recognized by their peers and parents and listen to Cepaitis read her winning essay.

The grand prize winner and, if time permits, the two runners-up will be given an opportunity to read their essays at the GRPS Board of Education meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20. Warner Norcross Diversity Partner Rodney Martin will be in attendance at both programs to introduce the winners.

Here are the winning essays:

Grand Prize Winner

 Tess Cepaitis

Riverside Middle School

Ms. Holt’s Sixth Grade Class

“Silence”

 Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 This quote has had an impact on my life as well as on the lives of others. Kids in school struggle with this situation as well as adults in society where witnesses to crimes and other bad things stay silent out of fear. Most people would like to step up and do the right thing, but they are afraid. We need to get some guts and do what Dr. King suggested.

I remember a time when I stayed silent. It was a gloomy day when I was in the third grade. We had gone outside for recess, and the snow was covering the wood chips and play things. A quiet girl sat on the cold swings a couple of yards from me as I was making a snow angel. A boy ran over to the girl demanding that she give up her swing. She refused, quietly telling him there were lots of swings open. He pushed her off the swing into the snow. She stood up and her pants were soaked. The girl tried to wipe the slushy snow from her pants, I don’t know why, but I just went to the other side of the playground and kept making snow angels. After the lunch bell rang, I just walked back into the building and left her standing there all miserable and cold. The whole time I was thinking, You should have done something! You should have helped her! But I did nothing.

Ever since that day, the experience has haunted me. I still feel the same shame I did then when I remained quiet. Now I try to speak up for what is right and stop things like this at school, at the park, and everywhere I go. I now realize that I need to stop a bully’s tauntings right as they start instead of silently letting them happen. Every word we speak or don’t speak can make an impact. Dr. King tried to tell us that, and finally, I am listening.

 

1st Runner Up

Myaja Dunning

Gerald R. Ford Academic Center

Mr. Gleason’s Sixth Grade Class

 “The Quote I Like the Most”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This is my favorite quote from MLK because it really spoke to me. It told me that if a person says something mean to me, they are just bringing darkness. But if you say something back to them you are bringing more darkness. It’s like the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

This quote makes a positive difference in my life because I used to get called mean names all the time. I don’t let that bother me because I’m not going to hold a grudge or bring darkness into the problem. The only way you can bring light into the problem is if you bring light and positivity into the problem. This quote helps me make a positive difference in the lives of my family and friends by encouraging me to be positive as much as possible. There are times when I may disagree with someone close to me, but that does not mean I have to be negative or dark about the situation. Reflecting on this quote encourages me to think positively about the situation, even if it may not be in my favor. It’s important to think about, and to consider, other peoples’ points of view, as it shows that you embrace diversity of thought.

Negativity breeds negativity, which is why it’s so important to be a beacon of light, positivity, and love through all circumstances. People tend to feel and feed off of positive energy. If more people can change their attitudes toward more positive thoughts, the world would be on track to become a better place, just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned it.

In an effort to make the world a better place, we should aim to drive out hate by filtering in positivity and love. Dr. King said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” I think people can look up to this quote.

 

2nd Runner Up

Carmen Perdomo

Southwest Community Campus

Ms. Quinlan’s Sixth Grade Class

“Judge Yourself First”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a civil rights activist who believed in equal rights for all. He changed American History

I believe in equal rights. I believe that everyone deserves equality regardless of the color of their skin, the place they are from or the things they believe in. I know it is difficult for certain people to believe in equal rights, but I have a few things to say that just might make them change their minds.

It’s important for people to have equal rights regardless of race, color or beliefs because equality is freedom. Free of worry, free to travel and free to be whom you are when it comes to your beliefs. Being free is important; equal rights make you free.

It’s difficult for certain people to believe in equal rights. For example, some Americans believe if you aren’t from America you don’t have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Why does where we are born change the word ‘equal’ to ‘unequal’? I believe these people are wrong. The places we are or where we were in the past may define culture and traditions, but they don’t define our character. We all have hearts and care; that makes every single human being equal.

I would say the following to someone who doesn’t believe in equal rights: I think you may not believe in equal rights because of how the world is separated into different places. You may think all of the different places people come from means they are different. Like maybe you think they have different hearts, different ways to show kindness and different minds. It doesn’t. No matter our color, race or believes we are all the same. Human.

At the end of the day, regardless of race, color or beliefs, we all are the same. Nothing else but our character tells us who we are as people. If you’re going to judge, quietly judge yourself. Judging is a sign of lack of character. Be friendly, be nice, be peaceful, be willing, be someone who believes in equal rights.

I leave you to think about the following quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I look to the day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.