A Prayer for Civil Debate in our School

The Westminster Schools High School Debate

[I offered this prayer and gave these brief comments this morning as an introduction to a school assembly where students debated the core issues of the 2012 Presidential campaign.]

Dear Lord, during this season of negative TV ad buys, sniping bumper stickers, relentless media cycles, righteous indignation, overly abundant and overly heated cheap shots, AND during this time of strong feelings, earnest conversations, party platforms, red, white, and blue yard signs, and intelligent debates…

Please help us to remember you and help us to keep an eye on the issues that transcend the political issues of the day. In these moments when we are pushed to delineate what separates us, to name where we disagree, help us to keep an eye on what connects us and what unites us, and let us honor you through the way we honor each other—particularly in those moments when we disagree with each other. Help us to keep an eye on what is bigger than the moment, and give us ears to hear even when we are perhaps looking far more to use our lips to speak.

As we barrel toward the November election, let us, in the words of the psalmist, seek to make the “words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.” AMEN


This morning we will hear representatives of the Young Democrats and Young Republicans debate the central issues facing us in this year’s presidential election.  There is no hiding many of the stark differences that separate the two campaigns, and as we are living through a moment in our history, certainly not the first one, when the intensity of debate has reached a contentious fever pitch, it is worth reminding ourselves of the importance of respect and of civil dialogue.

With that in mind, I ask that, as we head toward the stretch run of this campaign season, we each demonstrate respect for the people who hold views that may be different than our own.

At times we are so inundated with attack ads of dubious credibility and of hyperbolic criticism of another person or group or their viewpoint that we may begin to think that this is what political dialogue and debate are, a series of attacks where getting the upper hand is the point rather than finding the best way forward for our country and its citizens.  We should do better than this.

In short, I ask that we rise above the pettiness that can characterize political rhetoric, and that, both on the stage today and in our life as members of this school community, we seek and lead the way to a higher purpose for debating challenging issues.

I have personally found one rule of thumb particularly helpful, that is: no person in our community should be made to feel less a part, less of a member of our community as a result of anyone else’s personal expression of a political viewpoint.

So… with no further delay I hope you will join me in a round of applause for all of the participants in this morning’s debate…

2 thoughts on “A Prayer for Civil Debate in our School

  1. Kay Solomon September 28, 2012 / 2:46 pm

    Ross, I think your comments and prayer this morning helped set the tone for this assembly. Thank you for your mindfulness and thoughtfulness during a time that can get very heated, where emotions can sometimes cause students (and people in general) to exhibit behaviors that rise to the level of disrespect.

  2. Sam Proctor October 3, 2012 / 9:56 am

    Ross , I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Solomon that your prayer and comments set the perfect tone for this election.Now get up to NYC tonight in time to moderate our first debate.

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