Letter: The importance of civility

When I was a student at Clayton High School in the mid-to-late ’50s, I took courses in public speaking and debate, realizing that knowing how to communicate well would someday play a vital and pivotal role in my personal and professional life.

In the course of such communication, however, there have been a couple of cardinal rules by which I’ve always tried very hard to abide: never use insulting, abusive or threatening language, and never engage in personal attacks. In other words, I’ve attempted to maintain a decorum of civility, a term that unfortunately is becoming obsolete in today’s society, both in politics, and in everyday life.

I’m a staunch advocate of the First Amendment, and healthy and constructive speech and debate is a staple of our free democracy, but what I’m simply saying is that one can disagree without being disagreeable.

I’m glad to know that on the national scene President Barack Obama has spoken out publicly against such hateful, bombastic rhetoric among members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – for which he should be applauded, and I hope that the average American citizen takes heed and learns a valuable lesson in what constitutes correct comportment and behavior.

A nation is defined by its people, and as a country which prides itself as being the most advanced and refined nation on earth, many of us, nevertheless, can use a healthy dose of pure, undiluted civility.

Gene Carton, Olivette