Johns Hopkins Prof Urges Civility in American Society

COMMERCE, Texas – Country singer Blake Shelton’s music video, “Some Beach,” in which the easy going cowboy dreams of a beach to take his mind off the rudeness he experienced in driving, finding a parking place, and going for a dental appointment, pokes fun at a problem in today’s society.

This problem is lack of manners and concern for others, according to Dr. P.M. Forni who spoke at the Fall Convocation at Texas A&M University-Commerce on Oct. 21.

Speaking on “Civility and The Civility Solution,” the Johns Hopkins University award-winning professor of Italian literature said one day while lecturing on the “Divine Comedy,” he realized he wanted his students to be kind individuals more than he wanted them to know about Dante.

“I told them if they went out and treated an elderly lady on the bus unkindly, I’d feel that I had failed as a teacher.”

In the last few years, Forni has written two books on civility and gives dozens of lectures throughout the country on the subject. He joked that launching into a new research area may have been his answer to the midlife crisis that many adults experience. The mid life crisis, Forni said, “takes many shapes” and could result in buying a sports car or remarrying, but for him he found new audiences he could reach on the topic of civility and why it is needed.

Civility is awareness and respecting others – an element that needs to be emphasized, especially in the workplace, Forni said.

In today’s fast-paced world, there are four causes of incivility – “lack of self-restraint, urgency of personal pursuits and lack of time, stress, and anonymity,” he said.

Life is relational and it is important to build relationships, said Forni, director of The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins.

“We are creatures in the social ocean-when we learn manners, we are taught to swim,” he said.

Author of “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct” and “The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude,” Forni has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including ABC’s “World News Tonight,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” and BBC’s “Outlook.”

His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, and “O Magazine.”

A&M-Commerce President Dan Jones said Forni shared an important message with his audience of faculty, staff, and students. “Civility is not simply a question of minding your manners, it is also a critical component of professional success,” Jones said.

“Dr. P.M. Forni is an internationally recognized expert on the importance of civility, and we are fortunate he accepted our invitation to speak in Commerce,” he said.


Johns Hopkins Prof Urges Civility in American Society
SPEAKING ON CIVILITY – Dr. P.M. Forni of Johns Hopkins University addresses the topic of civility in society during the recent Fall Convocation at Texas A&M University-Commerce. An award-winning professor of Italian literature, Forni has written two books on civility and lectures throughout the country on the subject.

(A&M-Commerce photo/Paul Bryan)