Civil Discourse in an Uncivil Age

Wednesday, October 16, 2019
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
210 Hamilton Smith Hall
Event Type
Simoneau, Kathleen

Alexander Heffner, host of “The Open Mind” on PBS, will deliver a lecture at the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in 210 Hamilton Smith Hall. His talk, “Civil Discourse in an Uncivil Age,” is free and open to the public.

A panel of experts in politics, dialogue/civil discourse and the NH Primary will respond to Heffner’s presentation, including former NH Congressional Representative Carol Shea-Porter, former NH Attorney General and GOP strategist Tom Rath, Professor of Communication Sheila McNamee, and Professor of Political Science/Carsey Fellow Dante Scala.

Heffner’s lecture will deal with the role of civil discourse across academic, political and American life, considering the ways in which it can foster civic action, consensus building and civil society in local and national communities. He will explore the increasing divisiveness in American discourse and the toxic climate of political rhetoric and violence as well as suggest steps that might improve this threat to democracy.

"It’s critical to focus on how we together as citizens, officeholders, journalists and digital platforms can work to reverse the disunity,” says Heffner.

“The Open Mind” is the longest-running nationally broadcast public affairs interview program in U.S. television history. The program focuses on the world of ideas across politics, media, science, technology, the arts and civic life. Heffner is also coauthor of “A Documentary History of the United States” (Penguin). He has covered American politics, civic life and Millennials since the 2008 presidential campaign. His work has been profiled in The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Des Moines Register, Christian Science Monitor, Variety, Medium, and on NBC News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, NPR, CNN, BBC, ABC, and elsewhere. His writing has appeared widely in major media outlets.

This lecture is sponsored by the Civil Discourse Lab at the University of New Hampshire, an initiative of the Communication Department that uses teaching, research and practice to  strengthen the ability of students and community members to conduct meaningful conversations, collaborate and make decisions about difficult but important topics to a civil society. The event is co-sponsored by The Carsey School of Public Policy, The NH Humanities Collaborative, the UNH Parents’ Association and the Class of 54 Academic Enrichment Fund.

Panel of experts bios:

Sheila McNamee is Professor of Communication at the University of New Hampshire and co-founder and Vice President of the Taos Institute ( Her work is focused on dialogic transformation within a variety of social and institutional contexts including psychotherapy, education, healthcare, organizations, and communities.

Tom Rath is founder of Rath, Young, and Pignatelli and wa former Attorney General of NH. He also was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to be a director of the Legal Services Corporation.  Tom served as the Chairman of the election campaigns of New Hampshire’s former U.S. Senators, Warren Rudman and Judd Gregg and he actively assisted in the U.S. Senate process that confirmed David Souter as Supreme Court Justice.  Tom also has served as a senior national advisor to the presidential campaigns of Howard Baker, Robert Dole, Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush.

Carol Shea-Porter is the former member of the United States House of Representatives for New Hampshire's 1st congressional district. On November 7, 2006, Shea-Porter narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Jeb Bradley in the 2006 midterm elections to become the first woman elected to Congress from New Hampshire. She held the seat from 2007 to 2011, 2013 to 2015, and from 2017 to 2019. Prior to becoming involved in politics, she and her family lived in Colorado, Louisiana, and Maryland, during which time she was a social worker and community college instructor.  (from Wikipedia:

Dante J. Scala is professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, a Carsey Faculty Fellow, and Master in Public Policy Faculty. He has studied the changing political demographics of New Hampshire for two decades, and his expertise is recognized locally and nationally. His recently published work include case studies of several recent New Hampshire elections. He took part in a multi-state study of campaign communications in 2008, funded by the Pew Foundation and published by Temple University Press. His current work includes a study of campaign finance in the era of super PACs. Dante is a graduate of Villanova University. He holds a master's degree and a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Alexander Heffner Photo
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