If you have ever watched a session of the House of Representatives, or perhaps the State of the Union Address, you most likely noticed the large wooden tiered rostrum that dominates the center of the room.
Here is where the Speaker presides over the House, bills are introduced and voted upon, and members speak to their causes. At the lowest level of the rostrum, carved into the wood, are five words: Union. Justice. Tolerance. Liberty. Peace.
This week, America watched as civic debate descended into an ugly feverish pit. The House of Representatives devolved into disturbing disarray, where personal character was questioned and confusion reigned. The irresponsible media loved it. I received two death threats, one by phone and one by social media.
A few years ago, one member of Congress brought forth the idea of a civility pledge. It was signed by a number of members. I did as well. Perhaps you would like to read it.
A Commitment to Civility
As members of the United Sates House of Representatives and as individual citizens, we recognize the gravity of the responsibility we have been given and the significance of this moment in the history of our extraordinary country.
America remains the most free, most powerful and most prosperous nation in all the world, and yet we face significant challenges. Among these challenges has been an increasing division in and coarsening of our culture fueled too often by the vitriol in our politics and public discourse. One result has been a loss of trust in our institutions and elected officials.
We believe there is a better alternative.
Although we represent both political parties and a wide range of individual views across the political spectrum, our common and sincere aims are to serve the needs and interests of the American people, to work with one another to encourage greater confidence in our institutions, and to set an example of statesmanship for the younger generations of Americans that will follow.
To this end, we are dedicated to showing proper respect to one another and all others, encouraging productive dialogue and modeling civility in our public and private actions. While we may vehemently disagree on matters of law and policy, we will strive at all times to maintain collegiality and the honor of our office.
We believe that a leader can be cooperative and conciliatory without compromising his or her core principles, and we recognize that our political rivals in Congress are not our enemies — but rather our colleagues and fellow Americans. We also believe that maintaining a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation will help make government work more efficiently and effectively, help build consensus and restore the public trust, and, ultimately, serve as a positive influence on society at large.
For all these reasons, we hereby pledge our names to this Commitment to Civility.