It's not often when you get members of congress from different sides of the aisle in the same room working together on solving an issue important to so many people across our area and our country.
But on Monday afternoon, in downtown Rockford, that's exactly what happened. Rep. Adam Kinzinger and Rep. Cheri Bustos sat down together to talk about one singular topic. Civility.
"Democrats don't hate people, Republicans don't hate people."
And with those words from Congressman Kinzinger, the conversation in front of a packed Nordlof Center audience ignited a deep dive into the shortcomings of civility in our country.
“We’re in a bad place right now, I think, in our country,” Bustos said. “We’re at a scary place in our country.
Both Bustos and Kinzinger spoke candidly about the topic of civility and shared stories and experiences from both their personal and professional lives. They both spoke directly to the students in the audience about social media, sharing daily examples of some of the nasty comments they receive on their Facebook and Twitter feeds and how they talk with their staffs about how to respond with civility and not interact with those people in a negative way.
In talking with the students, Kinzinger specifically challenged those in attendance to be willing to listen to speech you don't agree with. He said his college years shaped his ability to take part in these types of conversations and it helped him hone his skills on how to respond intelligently and respectfully.
They both spoke about their attempts to have positive, civil relationships with people on the other side of the aisle in Washington, D.C. Bustos spoke about the relationships she has with numerous Republican counterparts including Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois and former Speaker of the House John Boehner. She added that before she introduces any legislation, she tries to seek out numerous Republicans to work together with.
Kinzinger shared a story about his relationship with former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who he admitted he never saw eye-to-eye with on any policy or legislation. He said although he rarely agreed with him, he enjoyed his company and thought he was a great person. Telling the audience on multiple occasions that we can all disagree without hating one another. Also adding "in person, people are good, kind people."
The conversation continued with about the current state of our country and the rhetoric being used among current politicians and national media. Both Bustos and Kinzinger spoke about their concern with the current state of discourse across the country. Bustos shared her concern about fear-mongering while Kinzinger pleaded for people to seek the truth rather than listening only to people who share their same viewpoints
"People need to get back to seeking the real truth, not just listen to confirmation bias that suits their own beliefs," Kinzinger added.
Rep. Bustos went on to challenge the audience to not waste their lunch hour. She shared a story about her time living Des Moines, a city she was new to at the time. She said took it upon herself to reach out to people to meet them and to learn more about them and their views.
The event was put on by the local organization, 815 Choose Civility, in hopes of furthering the conversation of how we treat one another in all aspects of our lives.
You can watch the full event in the video player below.