Archive for Thursday, May 26, 2005

Listening, civility becoming outdated in polarized times

May 26, 2005

We live in a society where high-salaried radio and TV talk show hosts find fame by routinely being rude. Their stick is to continually interrupt and shout down their supposed guests.

Civility, it seems, is an outdated concept. With discourse becoming ever more polarized in our society, its seems we are never expected to listen to views with which we don't agree.

Amazingly, that attitude was displayed at this year's Eudora High School graduation when a woman felt justified in interrupting the commencement's keynote speech, saying that in her view the subject of the speech was inappropriate for a celebration like graduation.

Granted, Patrick Everley's speech and PowerPoint presentation on the cancer research he is conducting at Harvard varied from the standard your-future-is-yours-to-grasp fare. But a listener had to be pretty dense not to grasp that Everley was a living embodiment of the hackneyed graduation address theme that students can make their dreams reality. The 1997 Eudora High School valedictorian went on to graduate with honors from Kansas University and then to Harvard University. Moreover, an astute listener would have heard Everley's message of the direction of cancer research as one of hope and not depressing.

All that is beside the point. The fact is Everley was invited to speak at the event. A researcher, not a professional speaker, he almost certainly asked what he should speak about. Those in attendance had a simple obligation to listen or, if offended, leave the gym. It was not their place to attempt to censor. Objections could be raised later with school administrators.

The graduates greeted the end of Everley's talk with enthusiastic applause. It provides hope they learned respect and the ability to listen during their time in Eudora schools.

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