Guest Column: Upcoming opportunities to spread civility

Published 11:32 pm Friday, September 15, 2017

Live United by Ann Austin

I have the honor of being involved with our local Choose Civility group. We choose respect, consideration, empathy and tolerance as our fundamental values, enhancing Freeborn County’s way of life.

This focus aligns with United Way’s work to connect people and resources. We believe that everyone’s voice matters and we must honor and respect what each person has to offer. We grow when we develop honest and trusting relationships with each other.

Ann Austin

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Civility is a significant need in our time — according to Civility in America’s 2017 report, 84 percent of Americans experienced incivility, and 75 percent think incivility has risen to crisis levels.

These are concerning statistics — but we have the opportunity to do something about it, especially on a local level.

Our Choose Civility committee has been in existence for many years now — and focus on building capacity to engage in a more civil and inclusive environment.

Locally, we have chosen to focus on the following 11 rules:

1. Pay attention

2. Acknowledge others

3. Think the best

4. Listen

5. Be inclusive

6. Speak kindly

7. Respect others’ opinions

8. Apologize earnestly

9. Accept and give constructive criticism

10. Refrain from idle complaints

11. Respect the environment and be gentle to animals

To carry out these areas of focus, we have awareness opportunities throughout the year, including the mile markers with civility messaging as well as signs at local sporting events, which focus on creating a safe and welcoming environment for team members, coaches and volunteers as well as spectators.

In the fall, we focus on several events to educate and provide perspective for community members. This fall, we are bringing back Bukata Hayes, director of the Mankato Diversity Council.

Bukata will present about unconscious bias, which is defined as: The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner; they are our hidden prejudices. These biases can be both favorable and unfavorable, but they are involuntary responses. They can be as simple as choosing to associate with individuals who dress, talk, act or look like us.

There is a certain level of comfort that comes from being around people who are similar to us — but we also limit our ability to grow as individuals and as a community — to understand that, though people may dress, talk, act or look differently — we are still very much the same. We grow every time we open ourselves up to new experiences and accept new friendships into our lives.

Unconscious bias presentations will be held for city staff, county and nonprofit staff, as well as health care staff.

In addition to these valuable trainings, there will be several other events throughout October the community may participate in:

Paint the Town Purple will be an event throughout October that local businesses may participate in to raise awareness of domestic violence and the importance of creating healthy relationships. For more information, contact the Crime Victim’s Crisis Center at 377-5462.

• Oct. 7: Blessing of the Animals, 10 a.m. at Frank Hall Park, officiated by the Rev. Kurt Farrell.

• Oct. 15: R.A.D. Zoo and Children’s Kindness Event, 2 p.m. at the Children’s Library.

• Oct. 21: Choose Civility Tea, 2 p.m. at the Freeborn County Historical Museum.

For more information about any of these events, or to get involved in the Choose Civility initiative, visit or contact Peggy Havener at the Albert Lea Public Library at 377-4355.

We can choose civility every day, and when we do, the world is a brighter and happier place for us all!

Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.