In the wake of this weekend’s tragedy in Tucson, the national discussion has quickly turned to one of civility. Did the words of conservative activists encourage this troubled boy to commit acts of murder? Or, is such an inference misguided and even insulting? Many are calling on the president to turn the tragedy into an opportunity to talk about the importance of a civil tone in our vitriolic politics.

This seems like the wrong approach to me.

The President, and others in a position to be heard, ought to resist calls to “use” this moment as an opportunity to do anything but lift up the stories of those who lost, or nearly lost, their lives last Saturday.

Consider Judge John Roll, a chief federal judge appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1991 that died in the shooting spree. Roll is described by his colleagues as having been humble, fair, and kind, and was working to bring more resources to his state to help with a severe case back-log in the months before his death.

9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, the only girl on her Little League baseball team and a newly elected member of her student council, also died.

Daniel Hernandez, a 20 year-old intern on his 5th day on the job, operated on instinct to stop Congresswoman Giffords’ bleeding with his bare hands, and provided comfort to her until emergency responders arrived.

And there’s Congresswoman Giffords, currently fighting for her life, who continued to host open forums at easily accessible locations like supermarkets, even after she had received death threats and had her office window shattered by vandals.

The stories of these individuals is what ought to dominate our news cycle in coming days/weeks, not a process-oriented discussion about how to have a discussion.

By focusing on these stories, the President can summon much more than civility – he can summon inspiration. In the lives affected by the Tucson shooting, we find evidence of the American spirit we so badly need right now: Young people like Christina committed to education and leadership; Older professionals like Judge Roll still going above-and-beyond the call of duty, instead of having one foot out the door; Citizens showing up on a weekend to listen, to chastise, and to meet one another.

People do not become civil because they’re told its the right thing to do. They do so because they are inspired to come together around a common purpose, and a common vision. Civility, at root, is simply a necessary means for achieving our desired end as a people – to form a more perfect union. It is the grease necessary to turn the wheels. It is not the end in itself.

Instead of a singular focus on ‘civility’, let us figure out how to take from these hallowed dead and wounded an increased measure of devotion to being stronger students, nicer neighbors, harder workers, and better citizens.

That nine year-old, Christina Taylor Green, was born on September 11, 2001. Her short decade on Earth was one marked by terrorism, war, political division, and economic uncertainty. In this new year – this new decade – let us be here dedicated to her unfinished work and, together, build a nation that can thrive in the 21st century.

If we build it, civility will come.

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