On Monday, September 28, Duke University welcomed Krista Tippett, a journalist and author best known as the producer for the radio show, podcast, and website On Being. Tippett spoke on “The Adventure of Civility” as the 2015 Kenan Distinguished Lecturer, an annual speaker series of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke.
Leading in, Tippett said she rushes to add qualifiers like “adventure” to the word civility, because she fears that it “has connotations of niceness and tameness and politeness, things far too mild to be an antidote to our current political culture.”
Throughout the talk, she addressed the need to have difficult conversations, and to engage with those with whom one doesn’t agree in personal and human ways. These are the types of conversations she fosters on her radio show and podcast, which invites diverse voices to tackle issues that challenge the heart of American life, such as religious extremism and the prejudice it espouses, or the polemics of debates on when life begins (or should end).
On technology, Tippett observed that while this social connectedness can lead to a performative behavior, it also provides an opportunity to link our vulnerability and our capacity for innovation in ways that are intimate and immediate.
She noted that in the aftermath of recent tragedies, such as the events on 9/11, or after mass shootings, that there is a call and a desire for social healing, moral imagination, and civil discourse that has not been met. She challenged all in the audience to be intentional and meaningful in their questioning, and to bring that thoughtfulness to big, messy, provocative, and thrilling conversations that transcend predictable, dead-end debates.
In speaking of social healing, she said that we must create spaces where you can sit, acknowledge, and be with pain that has been caused, to contemplate and grieve the wrong, rather than simply orient around action.
Overall, she presented a message of hope, insisting that humankind can “live our way to the answers together.”