Posted: December 5, 2016
By: Henry Frye and Nelle Hotchkiss
The 2016 election is behind us. Or is it?
There is no doubt that the 2016 election was, perhaps, the most bitter and hostile in history. Instead of looking forward to a new administration and the anticipation of new ideas to come, it seemed that most people were just looking for this “election season” to be over.
In every election, there are always competing ideas, and this is to be expected and is healthy. But what was most disturbing was the tone of the campaign – the insults and anger espoused by both candidates and their supporters. It is estimated that over $1 billion was spent on the most negative campaign ads we can remember.
But then, almost miraculously it seemed, the tone of the candidates changed after the election. Each was gracious to and complimentary of each other. They exhibited the kind of tone and language that we should expect from our leaders.
So why couldn’t that have been their tone during the campaign?
What happened to politics as we remember it? What happened to people talking to each other, reaching across the aisle to get things done?
The election of 2016 is what our children will think is the right way to campaign and talk to each other. We must make sure and do all we can to change that perception.
The N.C. Institute of Political Leadership is an organization dedicated to doing just that. Bringing civil discourse back to the front as it should be.
NCIOPL is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate future political and community leaders such that its participants will have a sound grounding in ethical behavior, consensus building, and cooperative and collaborative leadership as they run for office and govern.
Our expectation is that our students will begin or continue their careers in public service with a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. It’s how our students are taught, many of whom are serving now.
As an example, a current NC State Senator and NCIOPL alum explained recently that he thinks about what he learned in NCIOPL every day in the General Assembly and tries to conduct himself according to our principles. We can’t change the entire system overnight, but if we can have alumni such as this show others by example how much more effective they can be by discussion and collaboration, then we can begin to see the change that is needed.
This fall, NCIOPL co-hosted, with local Chambers of Commerce, three debates for the offices of Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Treasurer in Wilson, Asheboro, and Statesville respectively, and we were delighted to do so. In each case, the candidates, their staffs, and the students and staff of NCIOPL worked together produce an outstanding forum for the voters of North Carolina. Viewers, listeners, and readers all had the opportunity to receive good answers to their questions and helpful information from the candidates. We also received widespread social media support which was critical in disseminating information from the debates.
We believe this is a great sign and a beacon of hope for the future.
It can happen. Our “Hometown Debates”, providing spirited but respectful discussions, proved it.
We should be looking forward to the future of our political system with optimism, not dread. Hopeful, not fearful.
So, is the 2016 election really behind us?
We believe the answer can be yes. If we focus on the issues, and not the personalities. Encourage discussion, not distraction. Build each other up, not tear each other down. Really hear what each other is saying, not merely listen.
NCIOPL – its faculty, staff, alumni, and students – is committed to this. Will you join us?
Greensboro resident, Henry E. Frye is the former chief justice of NC Supreme Court and former board chairman of NCIOPL. Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives,is the current board chairwoman.
Credit: Greensboro News and Record