Merriam-Webster defines Civil Discourse as a formal and orderly and usually extended expression of thought on a subject. Most often it takes place by connected speech or writing, to talk or discuss. For a myriad of reasons, we no longer TALK to one another.
Extreme rhetoric, amplified by social media and short attention spans, has decreased our ability to talk with one another in honest ways. Sadly, the dependency on communication technology has created many negative results. Conflict has escalated as we have lost the ability for resolution and compromise. It has become easier to belittle and criticize others because we can do so without facing them. Cyclical arguments are almost never resolved. Frighteningly, too many people depend upon unsubstantiated information because it is quickly and readily accessible. Texting, emailing, posting, and messaging have taken the place of dialogue. We have become dependent upon those handheld computers that have a phone app on them! It is rare that we engage in an extended phone call or face-to-face conversation. Restoring the balance of dialogue can begin in our own community.
Recognizing that our inability to civilly communicate has escalated, the Prosper Economic Development Corporation has enlisted the help of community leaders, led by Prosper Mayor David Bristol and Jason Galui of the Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business to establish Prosper Exchange. The mission of the Prosper Exchange is to promote civic participation through honest dialogue and civil discourse across a range of challenging issues. Jason, who had a unique Army career, hopes that the honest dialogue will result in people walking away from each Exchange thinking to themselves: “Wow. I haven’t thought about that issue in those terms, there is much more to be considered." Sadly, there exists a stalemate of sorts between extreme poles of our political and social landscapes. We must remember how to listen and hear one another and respectfully discuss our differing beliefs and perspectives. Beginning in our own community is the first step toward achieving this.
On a quarterly basis, beginning January 12, 2023, a selected topic will be presented by known experts representing opposing sides. They will present arguments which will be followed by questions, facilitated discussion and open dialogue by participants. The discussion will be respectful, and all participants will be given equal time to speak. It is the goal of the Committee that the topics are presented in a fact-based platform and will be the catalyst for meaningful and considerate dialogue.
Mayor David Bristol said, “Our community is filled with a wide array of educated, informed, and experienced individuals of various backgrounds. Through my conversation with many of them, I have learned that people are hungry for facts and energetic conversation. We have become too polarized. With the inception of the Prosper Exchange, perhaps we will encourage enlightening and valuable discussion. By becoming more educated and informed, we can be more diligent in how we communicate and operate.” David Blom, Tellus Group, and Prosper Exchange Committee member stated very simply, “It would be irresponsible for us not to pursue such a program.”
Some of the topics which will be discussed are, Civil Rights, Abortion, Workforce, Energy, Technology, International Trade, and Domestic Extremism. The first discussion will center around Immigration. The topics will focus on 2 larger, national or global issues per year, each followed by a local or state issue. Cullum Clark and Bill Holston will serve as presenters. Mr. Holston is the Executive Director of Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. Since the 1980’s, Bill has provided pro bono legal representation for political and religious asylum applicants. He has also represented clients from 21 countries in Immigration Court or before the Houston Asylum office. Dr. Clark is the Director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative. He is responsible for managing various aspects of the new partnership between Departments of Economics and the Bush Institute and leads the Initiative’s work on domestic economic policy and growth.
Why is an economic development organization developing such a program, you may ask. Every topic listed impacts the economic growth and vitality of a community. We must make informed, educated and practitioner-based decisions to assist our businesses and investors. Without productive, fact-based dialogue we cannot effectively determine the positive and negative implications for our residents.
Mary Ann Moon, CEcD, FM, HLM
Prosper Economic Development Corporation