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Essay contest

Four of the six essayists: (Left to right) First place secondary school winner, Bryson Stotler; third place secondary school winners, Nathan Mullanix; first place college-level winner, Arianna Herrera; second place college-level winner Amman Ali Asghar.

COOS BAY — Earlier this month, the League of Women Voters of Coos County held its second annual Civil Discourse Essay Contest.

The contest tasked students from throughout the South Coast to come up with ways they would promote civil discourse within their own communities.

In addition to their essays, the students were also asked to formulate a tweet that would summarize their thoughts. This year, six students were selected as winners and awarded scholarship funds ranging from $50 to $100.

Secondary School:

First Place

Bryson Stotler of North Bend

Homeschooled, 7th grade

On June 23, 2018, while Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family were dining at the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, the owner of the restaurant asked them to leave. According to the Washington Post, the owner stated Sanders worked for an “inhumane and unethical” administration and “she supports and defends Trump’s bad policies.” 

In response, Rep. Waters of California encouraged a crowd, stating, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in businesses, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them!”

The President tweeted that Waters was “an extremely low IQ person... She has called for harm to supporters of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!”  

What a mess! Where could this have been prevented? This was caused by pride and disrespect. This is an example of a lack of civil discourse in the United States government.

Society requires the use of civil discourse multiple times each day. This means that we need to learn civil discourse as a society. There are some solutions to this problem.

The first solution is that one person needs to treat the other person[s] with kindness, mercy, compassion, and respect. 

Secondly, do members of the government require a social media account? They’re talking to people online, and don’t know who their audience is. We need to consider freedom of speech, but there are other means of communication. One doesn’t have to be online to communicate with the nation. 

What was the gain? Sanders was disrespected. Trump and Waters appeared childish. The owner of the Red Hen suffered because she had to close her business temporarily. The United States lost confidence in these members of the government, and no one’s message was truly heard.

Tweet: When Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family were kicked out of a restaurant on June 28, 2018, it sparked a whole series of uncivil comments. There are some solutions to this problem. #civildiscourse

Second Place

Macy Metcalf,

North Bend High School, senior

The foundation of civil discourse is rooted in respect for each other as people as well as an understanding of individuality and differences of ideas. This has been lost in recent years as people have been reluctant to consider any ideas but their own in public debate. To promote a safe environment of opposing thought, I suggest more open discussions and debate at schools, which could be started as early as elementary education. In addition to setting the ground rules of respect for open debate, educators should also incorporate education into differentiating thought and ideas. If we all thought the same, what a boring and uncreative world we live in. Debate anticipates that as a society, we are better to acknowledge our differences of opinions. 

Teachers have tried setting the ground rules for debate in some of the recent classes I have been in, but because of the void of knowledge and lack of manner and respect in most of today’s public schools, a classroom debate must have a teacher that students will respect and will be compliant in abiding by the rules of respect. To truly have an environment of civil discourse, a person must have trust of not being judged by their peers and must be able to have a conversation without feeling attacked by others. At times, this can spill into environment outside of the classroom debate into social settings or students may feel intimidated to express their ideas. True civil discourse must include open-mindedness by others while at the same time holding onto the values and ideals that you believe in.

Tweet: To promote civil discourse, all we need is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T! #civildiscourse

Third Place

Nathan Mullanix, of Coos Bay

Homeschool, 8th grade

It is of the utmost importance that we, as citizens of this great nation, promote the use of civil discourse in social and political disagreements. Civil discourse can be promoted in many different ways and it involves thinking before you speak and being respectful of the opinions of others, while still being able to express your own opinions on a topic. For example, if a person says something to you that you believe is untrue or an opinion that differs from the one that you have, then you can calmly and kindly tell them why you disagree with them, but in the end you still need to realize why they have the viewpoint that they do and that they have the right to their own opinions. The promotion of civil discourse can also be used to help cause a change in the government as well as in society. For example, if the government makes a decision that you believe is unfair, you should write a letter to your state representatives telling them why their decision is unfair and giving suggestions on how they can fix the problem rather than resorting to name calling. This is an important strategy because your representatives in government will be more likely to listen to you if you keep a positive attitude toward them. Whereas if you are negative toward them, they will be less likely to listen therefore a positive change never comes. If people do not start promoting the use of civil discourse then the results could be catastrophic to society for generations to come. If our citizens do not start modeling civil discourse when asking for change and rather continue to criticize and insult each other our society will not learn and grow in positivity the way it is capable of.

Tweet:  Civil discourse isn’t always easy, but it is always the right choice. If our citizens do not start modeling civil discourse when asking for change and rather continue to criticize and insult each other our society will not learn and grow in positivity the way it is capable of. #civildiscourse

College level:

First Place

Arianna Herrera

Coos Bay, Southwestern Oregon Community College

The survival of humankind as we know it continues to hinge on our ability to be compassionate. The Dalai Lama described it best when he said, “Much more effective and important than legislation is our regard for one another’s feelings at a simple human level... Here, I refer to the capacity we all have to empathize with one another... to arrive at the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering.”

Therefore, my definition of compassion is an extension of this quote and the definition of civil discourse as the ability to resolve issues without resorting to behavior that might inflict harm. Compassion is therefore the mindfulness of others regardless of political affiliation; rather than rendering public forums as an outlet for quarreling, it is imperative that we redirect our curiosity to better understanding others. The United States’ political climate has intensified and as a result, we’ve become increasingly polarized in our political identities and beliefs.

In order to promote some sort of harmonious society, we must first cultivate the value of ‘do no harm.’ Inflicting harm manifests itself in a myriad of ways. In America, for example, most news outlets present political altercations as public entertainment instead of a platform for pressing issues and strategizing solutions. As a country, we must dismantle this ubiquitous practice of an unacceptable excuse for ‘civil’ discourse. We must also work toward redefining what it means to be civil and what that should look like. The civil composure of people to discuss difficult topics is fundamental to substantial communication. Listening inevitably facilitates compassion and empathy through active participation in civil discourse instead of simply trying to perpetuate an agenda and establish a relationship that further divides rather than unifies us together in order to combat real-world problems.

Tweet: In order for people to change the world, we must first learn how to approach change with compassion and mindfulness. #civildiscourse

Second Place

Amman Ali Ashgabar

Myrtle Point, Southwestern Oregon Community College

There are three essential factors in promoting a civil discourse and when one or more of these factors are missing, what may have intended to be a civil discourse, soon turns into a hostile discord. The three main factors are knowledge, respect, and humility. All of them are equally important and should be taken seriously if two parties with opposing ideas intend to carry on a civil discourse. 

What part of knowledge is important? First, you should have knowledge of the subject being discussed, not just from your perspective, but from your opponent’s perspective. James Lendall Basford said, “fill your mind with useful knowledge, and you shall avoid empty words.” Having knowledge of your opponent is important to know to what degree your discourse shall be.

Along with the knowledge of your opponent the factor of respect must enter. Often when respect is shown, respect is returned. The reverse is true also. You can’t expect someone else to respect your opinion if you are disrespectful.

Lastly, humility in one’s demeanor in the course of conversations affirms the respect you have of your opponent’s person and knowledge. Arrogance turns people off. What you have to say in arrogant tone closes the door to communication.

My grandfather and I, on several occasions have had very civil discourses on what we fundamentally believe. He and I are very opposite in what we believe, but because we both have knowledge of what we believe in, knowledge and respect for each other as a person and are humble in our approach to our discourse, the end of our communication is very civil. For this I am very thankful.

Tweet: Knowledge, respect, and humility is the key to civil discourse. #civildiscourse

Third Place

William Roderick

Coos Bay, Southwestern Oregon Community College

In order to promote something, it at least needs to be an understood and acceptable ideology by the society. Otherwise, there is no point in promoting, it would rather be called trying to initiate something. I think many amongst us lack the meaning of a civil discourse, yet alone listening has become purposeless as we enhance in this world. Wise men once said, it takes a great man to be a good listener. Listening helps connect with people and strengthens relationships. 

If we can be successful in teaching people three things, I believe that will promote civil discourse. The three vital things are: every person has a right to believe in what they believe, it is not necessary to win every argument, and the main purpose of an argument should be to expand knowledge from it for both the parties. These things could be taught to kids at schools in hopes that they grow up with this trait. Subsequently, hoping their kids would follow them too. 

I believe if some of the tax money could go toward paying media channels in ensuring that they will have a particular time when they will play content related to the three things mentioned above to promote civil discourse. Maybe, try to even clarify that what they see in the news including the attitudes of individuals could be mere strategies in order to fulfill the required purpose. 

If we do this, we can run the trait of civil discourse in the generations to come in this country. It will not help individuals live better lives but help in the prosperity of this country too. It’s not easy, but we can start making change from ourselves, and on small scale levels promote parents to pursue the same.

Tweet: It starts with the individual. #CivilDiscourse

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Reporter Amanda Linares can be reached at 541-266-2039 or by email at amanda.linares@theworldlink.com.

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