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CSC Pledge for Virtuous Discourse

Jenna Nizamoff | Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Every year the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) centers its events around a theme; this year’s revolves around a document called “Pacem in Terris,” written 50 years ago by Pope John XXIII. In it, Pope John encourages respectful relationships between people, societies and nations as well as the utilization of one’s talents to add to the greater good of society.

This message holds a special place in my heart. Last spring, I studied in Washington, D.C., and interned on a Senate committee. When one thinks of discourse in Washington, especially Congress, “civil” is not the first description that comes to mind. However, that’s where I learned the importance of respectful dialogue and articulating opinions in an inoffensive way.
A Senate committee is comprised of a majority office (run by the party who holds the majority in the Senate) and a minority office. When an issue comes up, the two offices work together to draft legislation. The committee then presents a bill and hopes to get enough support to make it a law. Obviously, the offices in a Committee have different perspectives on how problems should be solved. Sometimes arguments get heated; on some committees Democrats and Republicans rarely spoke to each other because of previous disrespectful fights.

The offices that comprised my committee, however, had a great relationship with each other. They had lunch together; they went to happy hour together; they chatted about kids and life. They had differences in opinion and thus belonged to different political parties, but when issues arose, they engaged in civil arguments instead of heated rhetoric. They realized success depended on cooperation and cooperation depended on civil discourse.

One way the CSC is integrating “Pacem in Terris” into its work is by urging students to engage in respectful dialogue such as this. This reminder could not have come at a better time. With the presidential election quickly approaching, students with different opinions may not know how to discuss controversial issues respectfully. The pledge includes ideas for students on how to talk about topics with people with whom they may not agree.

However, the CSC does not want to limit its reach to discussions surrounding the election; the center believes we should respect our peers’ opinions all the time. To help guide students down a path to permanent virtuous dialogue, Professor John Duffy authored the Notre Dame Pledge for Virtuous Discourse. The Pledge encourages students to embrace seven ways of incorporating civil dialogue, urging students to support their claims with evidence, tell the truth and consider the possibility they may be wrong. By signing the Pledge, a student makes a promise to respect their peers and make Notre Dame an environment where differing opinions can flourish.

If students are interested in taking the pledge, they can sign it at socialconcerns.nd.edu. Sign the pledge; help make Notre Dame a place where respect and dialogue can grow.

Jenna Nizamoff
Lewis Hall
Oct. 2