Acts of Civility

Author: Gary Hart

As a follower of the McCain Institute, I received a communication recently from Cindy McCain, John’s widow, which read in part as follows:

“It is with this spirit of civil discourse and bi-partisan collaboration in mind that my family and I plan to mark the anniversary of John’s passing by engaging in #ActsOfCivility. John’s commitment to civility and serving causes greater than ourselves was unwavering and something we must not abandon without him.”

My act of civility will be to work harder toward the launch this fall of the Hart Center for Public Service at Metropolitan State University here in Denver.

The Center’s goal is to restore the ideal of republican duty and civic engagement without which our nation will not achieve its purpose and highest principles.

Public service does not require a political office.  Indeed, it has always been the understanding that the highest office in a democracy is that of citizen.

Many young people would benefit as I did from serving in some governmental capacity at the local, State, or national level for a few years.  Not everyone can do that.

But each of us can find a way to volunteer some time for a community program, a State project, or even a national program dedicated to alleviating homelessness, hunger, illness, or illiteracy.

Public service itself is an act of civility.  It makes us all better, the one who performs the service and the community it improves.

There has been a drumbeat over the past forty years that “the government is the problem.”  I am of the generation challenged sometime earlier to “ask what you can do for your country.”

Government is the problem only when it is mismanaged for the benefit of the few, the wealthy and the powerful.  When all of us partake in our government, it becomes the means by which we make our society better and more civil.

So, follow Cindy McCain’s leadership.  In honor of Senator John McCain’s service to America, undertake your own act of civility on the anniversary of his death.

If you do, his memory will not die, and the already great United States will continue to march on.

Gary Hart






6 Responses to “Acts of Civility”

  1. Michael Says:

    Promoting the idea that “government is the problem” was a strategic decision by movement conservatives designed to achieve political objectives. It was pushed so relentlessly that the image of the feckless, incompetent government bureaucrat who just gets in the way was found in countless films produced in “liberal” Hollywood in the 1980s and 90s, becoming ingrained in the American culture. Involvement in one’s community is a noble and necessary function in a democracy, and, as you say, makes us all better. There are so many needs to be addressed, and many organizations to help deal with them. What is lacking, to my knowledge, is a national effort to teach civics to our kids. That got lost somewhere along the way. But if we are ever going to return to the all to brief “ask not” culture and undo the damage of the “government is the problem” decades, actually teaching young people about what democracy is and their role in it would be a strategic place to start.

  2. Gary Hart Says:

    Dear All: Today is a day of sadness yet one of celebration of the life of a great American, Senator/Captain John McCain on the first anniversary of his death. He would rest in peace…except he has them chuckling in heaven. Gary Hart

  3. Bill Pruden Says:

    Senator Hart,
    Cindy McCain’s intent to support the launch of the Hart Center is in the best traditions of her late husband’s life-long and tenacious desire to serve, as well as his willingness to reach across the partisan divide to work with others to make government a vehicle to achieve solutions to the problems of real people. Unhappily such efforts are being spearheaded, by current “leaders,” but instead by retired, but still dedicated heroes like yourself and the widows of dead heroes like Cindy McCain. But those of us who still believe in civility and service can help in that effort by spreading the word, and emphasizing the need for such efforts by both promoting the Hart Center and spreading its message as broadly as we can. I look forward to getting more details about the launch of the center as I wish very much to be a part of it and the effort it will lead. Thank you.


    A very poignant article, dedicating acts of service to a greater good, here one for a great man.

    The cross-party bi-partisanship I, in the UK, in my party, the Liberal Democrats, have in our thought process and often in action, is something which some of us, growing up looking at those like our host, across the ocean, thought, perhaps we in fact were mistaken, was common in the great US of A.

    I read of people like Mayor John Lindsey, Republican, independent, Democrat.

    I knew of Wilkie serving Roosevelt even though his sometime opposite number.

    I know John Forsythe, a great actor I admire, was a friend of Ronald Reagan, but was a lifelong Democrat who spoke for Mondale, Ferraro at the 1984 convention.

    Where have all the flowers gone, wrote Pete Seeger, about loss of soldiers.

    We can remember the great soldier our host rightly does here, and ask, where have all the friends gone?

    We start as if enemies too often and therefore stay that way.

  5. Anita Robey Says:

    This is such good news. I am a labor/progressive democrat. I’m old too. There was a time when I could name republicans I admire. Debate was fun and you learned something. I enjoyed watching CSpan because guests were experts and educational. Callers were thoughtful. They were informed and active citizens. You learned things from people you agreed and disagreed with. The discourse today is a steady stream of rw/low talking points provided by a strung of pundits. I could go on about yesterday vs today and even CSpan and media etc. But I won’t. I’m just so happy to see this from people who remember. Many are desperate to like each I th her again and fix what is broken. We are a great wealthy nation that can work well for everyone.

  6. Mary Kay Collen Says:

    I seriously think we need to bring back the codes of being a Lady and Gentleman.

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