Roberta's Rules: Meetings and More

November 29, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Roberta's Rules of Order, author @ 5:54 am
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I’d like to begin this web log by expressing my distress about the lack of civility we’ve all observed (or heard about) recently in town hall meetings.  Suddenly the public place where US citizens have come for decades to express their opinions have become a setting for rudeness and roughness.

Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina said he had a “town-hall moment” when he shouted “you lie!” at President Obama during his nationally televised address to Congress.

Really!  Isn’t it bad enough to have disrespected the President without using the town hall meeting to justify it?  What does it say about public discourse when town hall meetings are used as an excuse for this behavior? When did outrageous rudeness become expected and accepted at these meetings?

Unfortunately this situation can be seen around the world as an example of the deterioration of the democratic process. Politicians dread them because they are a free-for all. Do you feel, as I do, that this has gone too far?

What if those attending these meetings would have to follow some fair “courtesy guidelines” in order to be given an opportunity to speak?  Here are a few possibilities:

Suggested Courtesy Guidelines:

  • Express your opinion freely, but without demeaning others whose opinions differ.
  • Speak in a tone of voice (not shouting) that is respectful of others, and in a way you would want others to speak to you (not accusing or attacking).
  • Speak only for the agreed upon number of minutes before sitting down.
  • Clap, if you wish, to express your support; please listen and remain silent if you disagree (no booing or shouting).

I believe there is a way to restore respectful behavior and decorum to public meetings, if concerned politicians and citizens take a stand against rudeness.  Having guidelines or ground rules are in the best interest of all involved.   However without consequences, we will continue to see the same behavior. It’s time for  the microphones (and TV cameras) to be turned off for those who cannot be civil to others in a civic meeting. Let’s work together to earn the term “civil society” again.



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