In his Three Taps speech at the beginning of the season, Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill said: “We need a ‘muscular’ (civil) dialogue for this time in our nation.”
But what does that mean?
Emily Morris, vice president of marketing and communications and chief brand officer, noted that Chautauquans have had difficulties understanding how to engage in this kind of conversation.
“We’ve had many community members saying, ‘We’re really up for this muscular civil dialogue, but we’re not really sure what that means. What does it look like and how do I know it when I see it?’ ” she said.
A collaboration with Claremont Lincoln University will be a starting point for answering these questions. At 3:30 p.m. Friday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Eileen Kelly Aranda, the university’s president, and David Carter, the dean of the ethical leadership program, will lead a special session titled “Chautauqua Institution’s Muscular Civil Dialogue Initiative.” The CLU presentation will last 60 minutes, with an additional 30 reserved at the end for questions and discussion. The session will also be livestreamed online at the Institution’s Facebook page.
CLU is a nonprofit, online program for master’s and certificate programs in ethical leadership, social impact and interfaith action. It was founded in 2011, in part by a donation from Chautauquans Joan and David Lincoln.
Carter said CLU’s values of mindfulness, collaboration and dialogue align well with Hill’s vision for Chautauqua. Like Chautauqua, CLU is interested in “how you create true change,” Carter said.
These values will be integral aspects of Friday’s discussion.
“We’re going to illustrate what it means to be mindful,” Carter said. “We’re going to discuss dialogue and how you actually engage in dialogue, and what dialogue means to us and CLU, and we’ll discuss collaboration — why collaboration fails so often and what true collaboration is.”
Carter and Aranda will also show examples of CLU student capstone projects. Previous students have worked on ethics within Bolivian government and on rewriting a construction firm’s values statement. Another started a fair trade coffee shop.
Carter and Aranda will also discuss some of their personal experiences.
Carter has a unique perspective on ethical leadership. He’s served in the Air Force and as a police officer, and worked for the National Park Service.
While he didn’t have a “linear path” to higher education, Carter said he sees that as an advantage. On his path, he learned the importance of having effective, moral leaders.
“If you don’t have ethical leaders, if you don’t have character, you basically have nothing,” he said. “You have a shell. It’s very tough to lead people and to have people follow you, and to really make change if you’re not an ethical person yourself.”
Making change also requires collaboration.
“Any time that people need to come together to solve a common problem, you need this,” he said. “I don’t know of a place on earth that you can just do everything alone and you don’t have to work with people.”
But even when people won’t work together, “you still have a job to do,” Carter said. That’s where muscular civil dialogue comes into play.
“The issues that we are wrestling with in this country and around the world are not simple,” Morris said. “Civil dialogue is one thing, but a muscular civil dialogue is something that takes work. And Chautauqua is exactly the kind of place where that can take place.”