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The bipartisan group reflected on values, commonalities, Founding Fathers

Topeka, KS – Nearly 100 state legislators, legislative alumni, lobbyists, and community leaders attended a “Building Trust through Civil Discourse in Kansas” virtual workshop.  The event aimed to improve civil discourse and gain understanding to support and improve the culture of civility. Participants left the workshop with next steps tailored to the specific needs of the Kansas legislature and community partners.

Representative Steven Johnson (R-Assaria) organized members from the legislature, Kansas Leadership Center, Rotary Clubs, and others to help plan and guide the event.

“In Kansas we are fortunate to have our civic partners walking beside us on this journey.  We will continue to think creatively about ways we can work with each other,” Johnson explained. “Promoting greater understanding across our issues and communities is a calling worthy of our effort,” he continued.

During the workshop, in an effort to better understand each other, participants shared, “What is the one value that united Kansas in the past that still unites Kansas today?” Many participants identified areas of common interest and enhanced relationships across party lines.   Next Generation Facilitators, who are current or former state legislators, encouraged participants to think above oneself by reflecting on the wisdom of the past and find ways to unify in the future.

“The important question we ask in every workshop is, ‘How did we arrive at our current beliefs and gain insight from others here?’ Brent Hill explained. “This sharing invites us to seek beyond personal beliefs for a deeper understanding of others.” Hill continued.

Keith Allred, Executive Director the National Institute for Civil Discourse, leads a discussion of the Founders’ thinking about partisan animosity and their conclusion that engaging each other with civility and respect across partisan lines is crucial to the success of the American republic.

A select group of trained lawmakers who represented seven different states from both political parties facilitated the discussions: Scott Bedke (ID), Denise Driehaus (OH), Roger Katz (ME), Helene Keeley (DE), Mike Mrowicki (VT), Kim Norton (MN), JoAnn Ward (MN), Kelley Packer (ID), Chuck Winder (ID), and John Unger (WV).

“It was an energizing virtual event where participants agreed that healthy discourse is imperative for good government. Thank you, Kansas, for spending time on this important topic during Kansas Day.” Hill said.


Informed by research, the National Institute for Civil Discourse programs are designed to create safe spaces for elected officials, the public, and the media to engage different voices respectfully and take responsibility for the quality of our public discourse and democratic institutions. Learn more at