Meadville Tribune

February 22, 2013

U.S. sens. to be honored for civility by Allegheny College


Associated Press

MEADVILLE — Allegheny College will honor two leading U.S. senators with its second annual Prize for Civility in Public Life.

The 2013 prize will be awarded to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina by Allegheny President James Mullen on Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“We will give the 2013 prize to Senators Feinstein and Graham because they strive for civility in the heart of the political arena,” Mullen said Thursday in a prepared statement. “Over its nearly 200 years, Allegheny has seen many dark hours in American politics. This is one of those hours — and so we felt it important this year to shine a light upon civility where it is most difficult to find — and where it is needed most: At the epicenter of American political conflict.”

The first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor as well as a friend of and advisor to Allegheny College and a champion of civility in his own right, will also participate in the award ceremony.

“Senators Feinstein and Graham are proud partisans who battle vigorously on the most contentious issues of the day,” Mullen continued. “They fight the hard fights, take on the big issues and strive mightily to win. But they do not seek to win at all costs. They each have long records, built over years, of doing battle with deep respect for the political process. And with abiding civility toward those they engage. They seek to do battle without personally attacking their foes. And without ever closing their eyes to opportunities to agree with their adversaries — even as they fight tenaciously for the positions they hold dear.

“If all of the central figures in U.S. politics were to emulate the best instincts of Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham, remarkable things would happen. We would get more difficult work done. There would be greater respect for those who enter public life. And more people would be inclined to participate in our two-party system of politics. We wouldn’t stop fighting. But conflict in our democracy would be prosecuted in a healthier and more productive way. That is the example we need today.”

The Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life was created in 2011 to annually recognize two political figures, one liberal and one conservative, who argue passionately but with civility for their beliefs.

The inaugural award was bestowed at the National Press Club in February 2012 to political journalists David Brooks and Mark Shields in recognition of their longstanding record of civil commentary and of the extraordinary impact that political commentators have on civility in U.S. political debate.

In the second year of the prize — and as the nation is deeply embroiled in hotly contested polarizing debates — it was judged important to highlight civility at the epicenter of contention in U.S. politics.

“Our winners this year could not be more different,” Mullen explained. “Sen. Feinstein is a proud Democrat from the heart of American liberalism in San Francisco. And Sen. Graham is a proud Republican son of the conservative South.

“They battle hard and fight tenaciously for their partisan views,” Mullen said. “Along the way, both have said things we wish they had said otherwise. Based on my conversations with these extraordinarily thoughtful leaders, I’m sure both have similar reflections.

“But if our standard was civil perfection — we could not choose people who are combatants in the arena of the day. Nor is that a uniquely modern reality. History teaches that no elected official who has made a significant difference on important matters of state has wholly avoided moments when passion or political reality has led to some measure of incivility.

“Our focus this year was not on finding the two or three moments that could preclude every potential winner in the arena — but rather to find a body of work that underscores what civility looks like where we need it most. We have found that in Senators Feinstein and Graham.”

n More information: Visit allegheny.edu/civilityaward.