From his first elected position as a county prosecutor through three decades in the Idaho Legislature, stints as lieutenant governor and governor, and now the U.S. Senate, Sen. Jim Risch has witnessed more than 45 years of governance. He has won (and lost) some of the most storied political campaigns in Idaho's recent history. He has tackled many of the most controversial issues facing Idaho — from roadless areas and sales taxes during his short time as governor, to national security and environmental policy in the U.S. Senate. Over those years, and during those debates and discussions, Risch has worked with people from a wide array of backgrounds and beliefs — and, in turn, Risch has been characterized in myriad ways. He'll share his perspective what civility means in politics at all levels, what has changed and what may be to come. We hope you will join us for this first of two forums exploring civility in the political arena. The second is being planned for October, and will include a panel of guests.
The City Club of Boise was founded on a simple motto: “Nothing happens until people start talking.”
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Monday’s City Club forum featuring Sen. Jim Risch. A number of people have said the City Club should never have invited Risch to discuss civility in politics.
We respectfully disagree.
We at City Club put a great deal of thought into this forum, as we do with all of our events. We have also wrestled with what civility means, and what a year of civility-related events should look like.
We came to believe that civility does not mean unanimity. Or the absence of conflict. Or coalescing around convenient compromise.
Civility comes down to a safe climate, one that allows people to discuss tough issues and confront their differences in core beliefs.
Our forums committee believed, and believes, that it was important to hear Risch’s perspective — because he works in the midst of the public policy arena, on Idahoans’ behalf. Risch has spent 45 years in the public arena. Risch has a reputation for being uncompromising, although he has crafted compromise. He has won and lost elections, based in no small part on his public image and his persona.
The City Club has sought as many points of view as possible on the topic of civility, because it is so important to the public process. We don’t expect any of our speakers to speak on City Club’s behalf — and we don’t expect any of our speakers to provide a lecture on how to behave. Rather, we wanted to explore the importance of civil discourse in many settings: the political arena, our schools, our courts, our churches and our social media feeds.
We wanted to start a community conversation. We certainly accomplished that.
To those who attended Monday’s forum, we thank you and hope you found it worthwhile. To those who didn’t, we remind you that you can catch a rebroadcast on Boise State Public Radio at 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Tuesday.
We did not grant Risch the first word on civility, nor the last. We have held six events on this topic so far this year. We have more events in the works, including an October panel discussion on the presidential race. If you would like to check out the Civility Project in full, you can listen to past forums at boisecivilityproject.org.
As we now say at City Club, “Things happen when people start talking.” We hope this conversation continues.