Open Letter From Provo City Mayor: Bring Back Civility

The mayor of Provo City, Utah recently penned an open letter calling for civility among his citizens in their daily discourse. Glenn read the mayor's letter during his radio program on Wednesday:

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. Did your mother teach you this also? Did you grow up believing in this motto like it was an all-powerful shield against bullies and trolls? All my life I walked around with at least some sense of confidence that words couldn’t hurt me.

I’m rubber, you’re glue

Whatever you say

bounces off me

and sticks to you.

For the seven years I’ve been mayor I have certainly had my fair share of complaints. I’ve read some heated emails. I’ve been called a plethora of names (believe me, I understand that comes with the job) but for most of the time I have been blessed to be the recipient of kindness and goodwill. Even in the face of strong disagreement we have come together with civility to work out our differences.

But recently I have noticed that the tide seems to be turning in public dialogue. Like a sewer leak deep beneath the surface, I feel a coarseness invading so many aspects of our lives. Even in our safe haven of Provo – a place known around the world for its kindness and concern of others.

For example, recently I received an email message from a citizen that ended with this line: “please … let [this] be the issue that sinks the mayor and his … awful arrogant deputy. Oh please oh please let them both be stripped of their clothing and carried out of the building …”

Similar to this email, in the last month I’ve heard accusations and disparaging comments of a very different nature than previous public dialogue. Engagement on all platforms—from social media to civic meetings are more sarcastic, biting, impatient, rude, aggressive and often all too personal. In the years of being mayor, I can strongly say this surge of negativity is not normal for our community.

So what’s going on?

I believe a majority of this comes from top down. Much of it has to do with the trickle-down effect of the conversation happening on the national stage. As we listen to those who have platforms as presidential candidates, we hear them use words that tend to be more cutting, more personal, more filled with spite.

The disparaging remarks in our own community are echoes of what we hear every single time we turn on the news, read the paper, or scroll through our Twitter timelines. It’s almost always there when we engage in a presidential discussion. Name-calling, bigotry, hate, attacks. The leaders on our national stage insist on using more and more syllables to pollute the air with words that incite, provoke and demean.

Not only do we need to worry about Supreme Court nominations, the economy and war, we now need to worry about the impact of negativity. From what I’m seeing in the community it’s as if the two candidates from the major political parties have issued us all a license to be rude without the thought of consequence.

I’m personally calling on our national leaders to understand how their contaminated actions and words seep into our local constituencies and how much we suffer because of it. I’m calling for a more civil discussion on issues like health care, immigration, national security, and jobs. We need them to take responsibility for changing the public discourse not only nationally but everywhere—in our states, cities, and homes.

I also call upon my fellow local elected leaders and residents to be that voice of civility. As a county, state, and community, we need more unity and less divide.

If we can’t expect decency from the top – let’s start it from the bottom.

Despite what our well-intentioned mothers taught us, words do hurt. They hurt all of us. Although I’ve experienced years of decent discourse I worry those days are over. We have a lot to lose in this election, let’s not lose our hearts as well.

John Curtis – Provo City Mayor

"He is absolutely right. And this is where I believe the hope will come from," Glenn said.

He then recalled a conversation from 2012 with a friend who lives by the mountains in Provo. The morning after the election was a difficult time for conservatives, who were devastated that Obama had been elected to a second term, allowing him to further transform America into a socialist nation.

Glenn's friend looked out her window and saw the morning sun coming up between a cut in the mountains, a single ray shining through.

"She saw this one shaft of light, and it came down on one house. And that shaft of light hit that one house . . . and it grew from that house to the next house to the next house to the next house. She said this is what we have to remember, that it's what we do in our own house, and it spreads from there. The sun does come up the next day, and we're going to be fine," Glenn recalled.

But darkness also spreads the same way, so we must remain vigilant.

"This is why, you know, I try to be more like George Washington. I'm a million miles away, but he's my hero. He's my archetype," Glenn said.

He continued.

"I was talking to a guy -- hard-working, blue-collar guy, he was at the set -- and we were standing at the loading dock over the weekend talking. He said, 'Glenn, I was working my whole life, and up until about eight years ago, six years ago, I didn't know jack. I wasn't paying attention at all,'" Glenn recalled.

To a certain extent, we're all "guilty," if you will, of the same thing -- just going about our lives, working hard and trusting in our elected officials to follow and respect the Constitution.

"We trusted that we all pretty much were the same, and that we were all pretty much wanting the same thing. And we all believed the same things and in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And when they were violated, we didn't really notice them being violated because we weren't on top of it. We weren't paying attention. We were allowing somebody else to take care of it," Glenn said.

But we all know that was a mistake. So where do we go from here? Can we get where we need to go?

"I'm on a journey, trying to be a better man, trying to be a better citizen, trying to be a better father, trying to be a better American, trying to be somebody who actually will listen, will have more compassion and will try to work with anyone who sees that the freedom of all men must not be violated. Can we get there? Yes, we can, if we all choose to be like the mayor of Provo," Glenn said.

The mayor's letter wasn't divisive or angry. He made it about him and the people who live in his town.

We asked our politicians to behave honorably and with integrity, but they failed. We can't change them, but we change ourselves and let that light spread through our families and friends. That's what can and always has made America great.

Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:

Enjoy this complimentary clip from The Glenn Beck Program:

Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:

Featured Image: Wiki Commons

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

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