A counselor on civility met with Iowa’s 150 lawmakers as well as other elected officials like the governor this morning. In an unprecedented move, Michael Josephson, founder of his own “Institute of Ethics” stood in the center of the Iowa House of Representatives and gave one of those motivational pep talks to Iowa’s political leaders. He interacted with lawmakers and the governor, talked about what motivates people and then tackled the issue of political bickering. “I think generally speaking as a nation we are concerned that somehow our society is being coarsened,” Josephson says. “It isn’t only by politics. You see the shows: Temptation Island, Survivor, The Apprentice — all kinds of shows which demonstrate incivility as being an advantage.” Josephson told state policymakers there are “meaningful” rules of engagement. “Could you imagine people in a corporate setting conducting competition in the same way that it’s sometimes done in politics?” Josephson asked the group. “People want collaboration because among other things they think it works.” Josephson urged lawmakers to examine their own motives and be a bit more humble and willing to consider other people aren’t “idiots” for having different beliefs. Afterwards, legislative leaders and Governor Tom Vilsack met with reporters to talk about their reactions to Josephson’s advice. “I think the challenge that Michael laid before us is changing the ‘Golden Rule’ in politics,” Vilsack says. “Historically, the ‘Golden Rule’ in politics is he who has the gold rules and I think what he’s suggesting is we get back to the more biblical notion of the ‘Golden Rule’ — you do unto others as you’d wish others to do unto you.” Vilsack says it’s a fairly simple idea, and if Iowa policymakers govern their actions that way, they’ll accomplish many of the goals Josephson outlined for them.House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, says the exercise was valuable for a Senate that’s evenly split with 25 republicans and 25 democrats and the House, which has 51 republicans and 49 democrats.”For my part, I thought it was a good experience and hopefully all members, all 150, had their thoughts provoked today about how we handle ourselves going forward,” Rants says. Josephson, a lawyer, founded the national Character Counts coalition which promotes civility and citizenship.
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