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Our View: Duluth can stand again against divisiveness

Battle lines were drawn over everything from a proposed golf course at Spirit Mountain to Bayfront development to health care for retired public employees that summer of divisiveness in Duluth back in 2003.

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Denfeld’s 1947 boys basketball team is the only Denfeld basketball team to win a state title. The team’s head coach was Lloyd Holm. Team members were Rudy Monson, Larry Tessier, Paul Nace, Kenneth Sunnarborg, Eugene Norlander, Howard Tucker, Tony Skull, Jerry Walczak, Bruce Budge, Keith Stolen and student manager Bob Scott.
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Battle lines were drawn over everything from a proposed golf course at Spirit Mountain to Bayfront development to health care for retired public employees that summer of divisiveness in Duluth back in 2003.

Cooler heads emerged, though - eventually, thankfully.

And so did the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation's Speak Your Peace Civility Project, with its tenets for civil and productive public discourse and its guidelines for reaching decisions even when compromise is condemned as weakness. Elected bodies across the Twin Ports and around the world have since embraced and adopted the civility pledge, its posters now in countless meetings halls.

The tools of civility at the heart of Speak Your Peace are from P.M. Forni's book, "Choosing Civility." They are:

• Pay attention: Be aware of those around you.

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• Listen: Focus on others to better understand their points of view.

• Be inclusive: Welcome everyone working for the greater good.

• Don't gossip: And don't accept when others gossip.

• Show respect: Honor other people and their opinions, especially in the midst of disagreement.

• Be agreeable: Look for opportunities to agree; don't contradict just to contradict.

• Apologize: Be sincere about repairing damaged relationships.

• Give constructive criticism: When disagreeing, stick to the issues and don't stoop to personal attacks.

• And take responsibility: Don't shift blame to others; share disagreements publicly.

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"All I'm seeing is people digging themselves in and rooting so much for the other side to fail," Anita Stech, a steering committee member for Speak Your Peace, said in an interview in April 2017 with the News Tribune Opinion page. "Nobody is talking to each other."

Or listening to each other. Really listening. And that is so important, as the best ideas - the solutions to our shared problems even - often are gleaned from many ideas.

"What happens when you listen? You actually might find the other side has some ideas you don't have. And they listen and they find some ideas you have," Speak Your Peace steering committee member Rob Karwath said last year in a News Tribune editorial. "Right now, (the value of listening) is not valued."

Civility demands to be valued. A turn toward the divisiveness that marred Duluth in 2003 would be a turn in the wrong direction. Troublingly, though, that possibility is as real as the coming midterm elections.

Unless we can commit, once again, to cooler heads.

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