Now, More Than Ever

Carl Luna


Perhaps not since the days of Reconstruction following the Civil War has the American populous been so divided. One can hardly turn on the television news or read a news story without a vitriolic tirade of insults and accusations. How can citizens cut through the noise and understand an issue free of bias? How can we hold the media accountable for their role in the political process? And perhaps most important, how do we heal as a country?

Enter USD’s Institute for Civil Civic Engagement (ICCE).

Housed in the College of Arts and Science’s Political Science department, the mission of the institute is deceptively simple: restore a sense of civility in political discourse.

Director and cocreator Carl Luna, PhD, explains that now is the time to ensure that the next election cycle contains less invective and more constructive and thoughtful conversation.

“We’d like to get San Diego talking about civility now, so that by the elections of 2018 and 2020 we can raise the level of our civic debate to match the better angels of our nature rather than see it stay in the gutter of trolling social media,” Luna says.

The institute works to engage USD students and alumni at multiple levels. The signature event is the annual Restoring Respect conference, held every spring at USD’s Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. The ICCE is expanding the 2017 conference into a two-day regional event (April 18-19), which will include panels and presentations on student leadership and civic engagement by and for USD and other area college and high school students. USD students are also urged to intern with the institute, organizing and conducting events and managing the institute’s social media.

Moving forward, Luna cautions that change must occur on a basic and fundamental level; of paramount importance is learning not to demonize either side of the political spectrum.

“A large majority of Americans would be more upset if their child married someone from the other party than if they married someone from a different religion or race. If the other party is evil or morally bankrupt, you don’t want or need to compromise with them — instead we have the politics of total conquest,” Luna explains. “That’s a recipe for the very gridlock that leaves us unable to address even basic issues at the national level like highway construction, let alone controversial issues like job creation and global warming.”

Moving forward, the institute hopes to grow its presence on campus and within the San Diego community by securing sufficient underwriting to support full- and part-time positions and by becoming a resource for effective civic engagement.

“Bringing in the active support and participation of USD alumni in our work is a top priority for 2017,” Luna says. Establishing a presence within the greater San Diego community would allow the ICCE to fully support USD’s role as an anchor institution.

“There has never been a better time for USD to take a leadership role in our society,” said President Harris not long after the election. “This is a moment when our university community can demonstrate that changemaking is not just an ideal, but an opportunity to lead and be positive agents in the world.” — Melissa Wagoner Olesen

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