‘Elect to be Civil’ and what if candidates don’t?

by John Borst, Past Pres. Rotary Club of Dryden

In the October 2016 issue of “The Rotarian” RI published a timely piece by Steve Almond titled “Elect to be Civil” in which Almond bemoans the “tribal nature” of America’s politics. In the very first sentence, he calls the current situation “terrifying”. He laments that Americans no longer see politics as a “collective civic endeavor, the means by which our society sought to solve common crises.”

elect-to-be-civil-350x317Regarding the present presidential race Almond calls it “brutal” and says, “Election 2016 has represented a new low when it comes to political acrimony.”

Almond concludes his piece by calling on Rotarians to figure “out how to remain politically and civically engaged without vilifying those whose goals clash with our own”, “to change the ways in which we think about and discuss politics,” and to model “for our children a brand of political belief based on shared values.”

This is a tall order given that there is no shared agreement among the candidates that the principles laid out by Almond have any validity at this time in America.

So what is a Rotarian to do? Certainly, no candidate is ever perfect. They never are. But I think Almond provides us with a guide by which, if we want to stay true to the values espoused by Paul Harris and the mission we try to live by, then we can discern which candidate has played more to our “tribal” instincts; which candidate has used vilification as a crutch to lean on, and because I’m a grandparent and former educator which candidate provides the better model for our children about what is dearest to us is this living thing called “democracy”.


About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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