Bradley University, and Peoria for that matter, have a rich history of sending bipartisan politicians to Washington, D.C. But on Tuesday, the capitol came to Bradley.
The Returning Civility to Public Discourse symposium, hosted by the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service (IPL), was a half-day long event that covered topics in national public policy. More than 70 students, faculty and community members listened to a number of prominent speakers discuss political issues.
“We were able to have some of the top national experts in the area of civility in public discourse, who talked about some of the changes that need to be made to break the gridlock,” said Brad McMillan, director of the IPL.
Among the speakers were Frank Mackaman of the Dirksen Congressional Center, Mickey Edwards, director of the Aspen Institute-Rodell Fellowships in Public Service and a 16 year member of Congress, and John Fortier, the director of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“We’re thankful and grateful [these speakers] traveled to Peoria,” McMillan said. “This is a fundamental first step for public policy issues. We need to have Congress get around a table and sit with each other about specific concerns.”
Two Bradley professors also joined the discussion. Chairperson of the English Department Robert Prescott and Chairperson of the Sociology Department Jackie Hogan sat on a panel with Mackaman.
“The symposium addressed what I consider to be one of the most pressing issues in the American political process today: growing incivility in public discourses,” Hogan said.
Hogan said many of the speakers discussed possible solutions to the bipartisan problems in Congress, including electoral reforms, campaign finance reform, the return to a five-day a week legislative schedule and changes in the ways electoral districts are drawn.
“Such reforms would go some way towards increasing cooperation and communication between the parties, which, one hopes, would lead to a more productive legislative process,” she said.
The keynote address, titled “The Importance of Civility in the Public Service Arena,” was given by Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Jim Leach. He is also a 30 year member of Congress.
“The Institute is starting to get a national reputation for bipartisan and civil leadership,” McMillan said. “We were able to have former members of Congress come. For Jim Leach to prioritize his schedule for this was great.”
McMillan said the IPL hosts symposiums every year but decided to focus on public policy issues for this event. Next year, McMillan said the IPL will focus on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights passing.
“Civility will always be key topic for us at the Institute,” he said.
The symposium was an excellent resource to all those aspiring to work in public service around Bradley and Peoria, McMillan said.
“The most important thing was the number of newly elected officials and students who strive to be in public service that gave good feedback,” he said. “They got to hear from notable speakers on the importance of how they can communicate with others effectively.”