Is Civil Discourse Dead? LEAP FROG Part 1: The L

Is civil discourse dead? Weakened from lack of use?

Thanks to the for this image.

Civil discourse may be hard to find these days, with uncivil conversations taking over on social media and elsewhere. But I want to believe that we can revive it, if we want it badly enough, and so I do. It’s a choice I make.

I hope I’m right.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, Civil Discourse in a New Age, I came up with this somewhat hokey LEAP FROG model to help those of us just starting out in practicing civil discourse.  I have no idea if it’ll be helpful, but it will at least help us structure a conversation ABOUT civil discourse and that is a start.

Before I go any further, here are the institutes and programs (and one book) currently focusing on civil discourse that I used in putting my acronym together. In among all  the bandwidth given to helping HR folks and managers deal with conflict among their employees, I did find some nuggets, and here they are, for those of you interested in further study.

[learn_more caption=”Click here for RESOURCES for Civil Discourse:”]

Teaching Tolerance: A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, more specifically their blog post,  Toward a more Civil Discourse.

Holly Weeks’ Failure to Communicate (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010)

National Institute for Civil Discourse at  the University of Arizona

The Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, at Cornell University [/learn_more]


OK, now let’s move on to LEAP FROG


Saturday Evening Post June 28, 1919

There are four parts to LEAP — Listen, Empathize, Assess, Present — and together, they comprise one turn. As in any game of leap frog, the participants do their part over and over and over and over again.

Civil discourse begins with listening.

This is so important and yet, how do we learn to listen and listen well? How do we even know if we are listening well? If the Other person feels heard?

So, I Googled it.  Turns out many folk out there study listening.  Suffice it to say that we are NOT interested here in the kind of listening you might have done in your college World History class.  No; you will not be tested on what you hear.

Instead, we are interested in what everyone calls EMPATHETIC listening. It’s the kind therapists do (hopefully).  It’s the kind that enables us to connect with each other.

I like to think of this type of listening as a gift I can give the other person. And vice versa.  How often do any of us get the opportunity to be listened to, fully, compassionately, and without interruption?

Back to our dyad about to hold a difficult conversation.

Sometimes it is obvious who speaks first in this conversation; sometimes the two of you will have to decide.  I don’t know that it matters how you come to find yourself in a conversation with someone with whom you disagree. Sometimes the setting is informal; sometimes it’s formal. Sometimes it’s spontaneous; sometimes it’s planned.



Thanks to for the image.

And remember Steven Covey’s admonition (Habit #5):

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Listening starts with cultivating an attitude of curiosity.

Listen quietly, without interruption. Ask questions during this stage only for the purpose of clarifying your understanding.

If it helps, pretend you are interviewing an ET.
What are the values and priorities on that planet?
How do certain events affect him or her?

What is critical (and most difficult) is to keep yourself from offering solutions, conclusions, judgments, or arguments. There will be a time to present your views, and it is not now. Instead,

  • Acknowledge as much as you can, understanding that acknowledging is not the same as agreeing. For example, try using “This sounds really important to you.”
  • Let the Other know what you’ve heard. Summarize and repeat as needed.
  • Ask questions only to help clarify.
Thanks to Nicholas Kristof for first posting this image to his FB page.

I posted this image just to help us remember why we are doing this.  We’ll come back to LEAP in two weeks with the E (Empathy — an important part of listening with your heart).

In the meantime, do you consider yourself a good listener? Why or why not? What challenges do you see in simply listening as a first step in a difficult conversation? 

March 8: International Women’s Day
March 15: E is for Empathize, back to LEAP FROG
March 22: P is for Present
April 12: The FROG part

37 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    My friend Carolyn is promoting a project she is calling the Post Card Battalion. The national move is to flood POTUS and members of Congress with postcards all to be mailed on March 15. Each individual will write four postcards. Topics might range from show us your taxes, Affordable Health Care, transgender issues, Neil Gorsuch, immigration, public education, free press, environment… to whatever is on your heart.

    The invitation extends to all viewpoints – liberal, moderate and conservative. I suppose you could Google to find out more details.

    Listening, of course, is key to the success of this project.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, there are many of these around, Marian. Always good to have a reminder. Will you be participating in one?

      • Susan Jackson
        | Reply

        I guess it haas to be postcards since they aren’t reading emails or accepting phone calls or having town meeting

      • Marian Beaman
        | Reply

        Plan to!

  2. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    I like this, particularly the bit about intent to understand. But there is another condition that needs to be fulfilled first, before you can listen effectively: you need to put all your preconceptions and prejudices in the cupboard and shut the door on them so that you can listen with an open mind. Without that there’s no hope of any empathy forming and understanding will be, at best, superficial.

    It’s not easy, but it is necessary.

    I look forward to the rest of your amphibian gymnastics! 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You’re advocating an ELAP FROG, huh? 🙂 Would be hard for me to find images, I imagine.

      You raise an interesting idea about preconceptions and prejudices. Put them in the cupboard? I don’t address what we do with them. I’d hope that they’d be safely contained in that cupboard already, not just because you were trying for civility. I mean, how do they serve us, day to day, anyway?

      I recall a quote from C. Wright Mills (I think; maybe Max Weber) about how we “can’t just take off our values/biases like we would an overcoat” and leave them at the door. He was talking about sociologists doing research “objectively.” Openness to what they are is vital. Remember my post about bias? So important to know ourselves well enough, I believe, that we are aware of our biases. But I really believe it’s possible to be empathetic and still not agree. Remember, “acknowledging is not the same as agreeing.”

      Next time (the 15th I think) we’ll talk more about Empathy. There’ll even be an Empathy quiz! I know I’m paying more attention this week to HOW I listen. It’s easier with some than others, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for coming by. You make me think.

      • Ian Mathie
        | Reply

        That’s just the point Janet. We all find it difficult to put aside our preconceptions and prejudices. After all, that’s a significant part of why and how we see the world the way we do. Setting all that aside in order to grasp someone else’s idea is very difficult, nigh impossible, and that’s one of the major factors that limits our capacity as Listeners.

        We try to overcome this by our efforts to empathise and understand, but these will always be tainted by what went before. Perhaps only those who come to the discussion with absolutely no prior knowledge of the subject can make a fair stab at listening with truly open minds, but there are too few such people to make a real difference.

        So we have to stumble on as best we can with what we have, preconceptions, prejudices, doubts, and all.

  3. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    Love this. Being a good listener depends on how the speaker presents her or his self. I can put my disagreements in the closet, but the door pops open instantly when a speaker starts out by being a bully. I’ve seen too much of that lately and unless someone presents their opinions in a thoughtful, kind way, I turn off my hearing aids. For those who have suffered abuse, it’s a most difficult thing to do.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Joan, I so agree that listening can be greatly affected by who we are listening to. I still, even at 68, can get triggered by a certain tone of voice or particular phrase. But at least now I catch myself earlier in the process and decide how I want to proceed. In the A part of LEAP, we’re going to talk about ASSESSing how you want to proceed (before you get to the Present your own ideas part). I’ll talk about what factors need to come into play in making that decision. For now, let’s just practice our listening. I know I need all the practice I can get. I still think it’s going to be the hardest for most of us. And I’m noticing I often don’t have the energy to engage. Hoping I’ll find it soon enough.

  4. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    I used to consider myself a good listener but since I retired and we have all this turmoil in the USA I seem to have lost it–but after reading this I will try and listen to understand versus refute again.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      That’s where it begins, I’m convinced. And, as you’ll see from the comments above, you’re not alone. Mostly I just want to hibernate until it all goes away. But my head tells me otherwise. I do think the turmoil gets churned even more when folks don’t feel heard. So, listening, alone, may well serve a valuable purpose. For some.

      Thanks for your thoughts here, Susan. I appreciate them.

  5. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Some important thoughts here, Janet. I think it is important to listen, and I think most people would agree. Actually doing it though–especially in a charged political situation –that is more difficult.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes it is, Merril. I think committing to bringing civil discourse back is a choice one must make. And then the hard work comes. It’s not easy. And I anticipate lots of waltzing — you know, two steps forward and one step back — before it starts to feel normal.

  6. Anna
    | Reply

    I’m not an expert but I follow with a great interest because I believe it will lead somewhere.
    Empathy and identity are two major things to unite civil disobedience. Empathy can be silent, identity is not.
    I survived one rather interesting revolution – the collapse of the Soviets in 1990-1991. It all started with environmental movement. To protect that river, to protect that tree. At the beginnig it was weak, purely local struggle, but it grew with empathy and identification. Think Standing Rock. It was a local struggle. Next time, I hope there will be more non-locals to join in if they will identify themselves with that river, if they’ll feel that the next will be their river.
    Then the identity grew and united. It become ‘them’ and ‘us’. Who will be that uniting ‘us’, it’s up to you, but it must be strong. Stronger than full fridge and mortgages. Democrats against GOP? No, it’ s abstract. There must be something stronger. Freedom (personal, freedom of speech….) for majority is something way too abstract to worry about. It must be something really personal. For us it was national identity. Soviet oppression become a threat to our language and culture, thus – to our future, our survival as a nation. It was personal enough to unite a nation to stand against the Soviets. The first stage was explosion of folk movement – traditional costumes, folk songs…. The second stage – singing folk songs become that emotional, elevating union to held us together. People – old and young stood singing while crushed under the tanks. Thus the name Singing revolution.
    Do you see anything that CAN unite the American nation now? Like unite for environment, for media freedom, for… what? I had been thinking a lot, but to be honest, I can’t see anything strong enough to trigger the masses for a big change right now. But I’ m sure you can find and you will.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Anna and welcome. I’m so glad you posted here. I’m fascinated by your story and hope we’ll all learn something from your experience as these weeks go forward. You mentioned a Singing Revolution and that struck such a chord of recognition in me. I have just today joined a chorus that will meet twice a month to sing songs of protest and resistance. Who knows where that will lead? certainly not I.

      You mentioned the collapse of the old Soviet Union was the result of an internal environmental movement. That’s very interesting for here, within the US, we are told one of two scenarios. The first, the conservative take, is that Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev to “bring down that wall” worked. The other, the liberal take, is that it was the involvement in Afghanistan that was so costly, it undermined your economic system and, hence, the collapse. You provide a very different story and I’m thrilled to hear it.

      If you don’t mind, I’d love to have you introduce yourself a bit more. Which country are you from? Do you still live there or are you living here in the US? It doesn’t matter, I just like to imagine where folks are as I talk to them. We have folks from Australia and the UK here and certainly a few of my former colleagues and students from Kazakhstan.

      • Anna
        | Reply

        I’ m from Riga, Latvia (my e-mail if you like to contact me personally is, currently living in France. Ask me questions what you would like to hear. I’m currently working on my memoir about the era, and here is one fragment which might have some interest for you – the first anti Soviet demonstration in Baltics. Year 1987, June 14th.

        Today is June the 14th, remembrance day of the great deportation to Siberia. On this day in 1941 Soviet armed forces stacked thousands of innocent people in cattle trucks without even formal charges. Whole families, young and old, even babies, were shipped away from the newly created Soviet border, to keep the area safer for the coming war with Nazi Germany. Or at least that was the excuse for it.
        The Soviets mostly picked up intellectuals – teachers, doctors, army and police officers. Those who might oppose Communist rule. Many died on the way without proper food or water, and were buried along the railway line. John’s grandmother, whose only crime was being a successful farmer, was among these who perished on the way to Siberia, and we have no idea where her grave might be. Many died later, when they were kicked out on frozen tundra in summer clothes without tools or food.
        A second big deportation happened right after the war, when the well-greased Soviet court system sentenced people for whatever crime was needed. My dad was one of these – his crime was publishing a school newspaper. Major crime. Twenty-five years in prison.
        Estimates differ but we believe a quarter of our citizens were annihilated by Soviet repressions one way or another. In the Soviet official history books such events are never mentioned, but those who survive remember these in reverent silence.
        The Freedom Monument, where today’s demonstration is planned, also has a special place in our hearts. It was built to honour our country’s independence from the Russian Empire on November 18, 1918 and the heroes who fought for it. Built on our entire nation’s efforts in the thirties, it has miraculously survived the Soviet era. Thus even the mere idea of laying flowers at this monument is a very brave poke with both fingers into the Soviet eye.
        Will they really let it happen? I don’t think so, even with all this new perestroika spirit around. But anyway, whatever happens today I must see it. I suspect I’ll not be the only nosy one there.
        ‘Karl, do not rush, Keggy’s legs are much shorter than yours.’ I push Rob in his pram through the park, enjoying the lovely afternoon while Karl tugs on Keggy’s leash. ‘Don’t pull!’
        Even the most devoted communists have lost hope to see the benefits of communism. So perestroika bought fresh hope for them. But little changes were in the air even before that. It’s impossible to define the beginning of the changes, but for me it was during the latest years of the Brezhnev era that I noticed more and more anti-Soviet jokes floating around. Of course, there still was the joke about Brezhnev’s meeting with Nixon who announced he likes to collect jokes about him and now he has three volumes full. ‘Me too, me too!’ responded Brezhnev. “I have five prison camps full of them!’ But at least it was a joke. The overwhelming fear from Stalin’s era has turned into ridicule. Now we are laughing even about the fear itself. Of course, the KGB “boys in grey” are still around and newspapers are full of typical Soviet crap about latest Comparty’s decisions and heroic efforts to save the crops, but changes are afoot.
        John’s parents live in a posh apartment block in the centre of the city between two parks, built in the 1930s with only one minor disadvantage – no lift. So I carry Rob, puppy and pram up to the third floor.
        ‘Oh, such a cutie!’ Nana is all over the pup when I finally open her door, quite breathless. ‘What’s his name? Can he eat some meatballs for lunch? What time does he need to be walked?’
        Nana has been my saviour every time I need a baby sitter. Nana is always at home, always available, and always keen to look after them. After all she is a retired primary school teacher. ‘Do you understand,’ I remember her worried voice few years ago, ‘that Karl is eighteen months old now and still can’t recite a simplest poem? John knew at least ten by that age!’ Worrying, isn’t it? Well, I must admit that now, at nearly four, Karl still hates poems and hasn’t learned a single one. On the other hand, he can do at least half of primary school math, just for fun. So I’m not particularly worried.
        ‘Right.’ After the mandatory cup of tea I cut Nana’s monologue. ‘I must go.’
        Nana’s verbal abilities are inexhaustible and if not cut abruptly, she will carry on nonstop about yesterday’s newspaper, yoga, sunspots, Mayan calendar… You name it. The only problem – she makes such a mess of it all that after ten minutes all you want to do is plug your ears and run in despair.
        The cycling match around the Freedom Monument looks a complete mess, but cheering crowds have gathered. Only a few look like actual sport fans: the rest impatiently pace around the park with happy but shy smiles as if they can’t believe they’re being so silly, waiting to witness an impossible celebration.
        So far perestroika has only been a lot of talk: but this one might be the first sign that something will really change. Or not. It depends. The density of uniformed police and KGB “boys in gray” is very high, so it looks more likely the ‘not’ bit. But they also appear confused and concerned. What they are waiting for? Orders from Moscow haven’t arrived yet?
        Suddenly, at half past six, the crowd parts like the Red Sea for Moses. And there they come. The group. Just a few people. Six? Seven? Some young, some with grey hair, but all very focussed. Step by step, with a mission in their hearts. A murmur spreads through the crowd – some of the group members have already been detained today.
        Eva at the front is wearing our national Latvian costume. The roses they carry – they represent our red-white-red national flag, banned since the Soviets took over. We are so desperate that we watch The Sound of Music repeatedly just to see that huge Austrian flag the Baron von Trapp hangs out, because it so looks like our own. Now I am witness to something much greater than a Hollywood film – something that my parents never dreamed to see.
        The crowd is emotional, tears blurr our sight. The brave approach the monument and solemnly lay the flowers under the words engraved at the bottom of the monument – ‘for Freedom and Fatherland’. When two youngsters at the front unroll a long poster “For the victims of 14th June”, people burst into applause.
        After my dim and hopeless twenty-five years under the Soviet rule I feel high, really high! I have seen a miracle. It seems everyone around me has similar feelings. The inert crowd turns into one unit, tuned on the same wavelength. We have all seen the miracle. One after another more and more people step out of the crowd to lay flowers at the base of the monument. More flowers. More people…
        How many are here? A thousand? Two? Three? I have no idea. The crowd is overwhelming. It is incredible. Fantastic!
        Suddenly somebody taps on my shoulder. It’s John, putting his camera down. ‘Look there!’
        Oh, shit! There with absolute innocence all over her face, comes Nana, pushing Rob with one hand and holding Karl with the other. Thank God, at least the puppy is left at home.
        ‘I just wanted to see what this is all about,’ says Nana.
        Yes, okay, but … ‘Nana, what if something happened? With two small children? Why do you think we left them at home?’
        ‘With me? Nothing will happen with me!’ Nana bangs on her chest. ‘Who would dare upset the survivor of the siege of Leningrad?’
        I look at her lapel. Indeed, she has attached a bunch of her war medals there.
        ‘It took me some time to dig them out.’ She giggles. ‘I didn’t find them all, but these will do. Do not mess with a heroic grandmother taking her two precious grandchildren to watch the cycling match!’ Nana snorts with contempt. ‘At least I speak proper Russian! Not like these… mongrels!’ She refers to the fact that her Russian, spoken in Leningrad over fifty years ago, is top-notch in comparison with the usual Soviet misuse of the Russian language.
        Despite Nana’s confidence I’m furious and so is John. Nana has weak legs thanks to the siege of Leningrad, when a beam from a collapsing house crashed on her feet. Soviet wartime medicine during the Second World War was quite simple for civilians – heal yourself or die. If authorities take an action now, there will be no escape with a stroller in this crowd.
        ‘Promise, you’ll not do it again, will you?’ John’s voice sounds grave.
        Rob is sitting in his pram, happily clapping hands, and then with his little finger points at the nearest police uniform. ‘Oo-ok, the-s a chekist!’ he cries out. ‘And ano-e’ un!’
        The only word he manages to pronounce clearly, of course, is “chekist”. So tonight, instead of a chapter from Winnie the Pooh my sons will have a lecture about the difference between ordinary police and chekists, the infamous KGB “boys in grey”. If they started using this word, I must ensure they at least use it right.

  7. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Janet – I’m late to the party this week, but wanted to at least chime in. I particularly like your description of listening as being a “gift” to another person, invoking in my mind a sense of being in “service” to another human being — at least for for a time, to allow them to fully express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc.

    I think you hit on something important, too, when noting that it’s possible to be empathetic without necessarily agreeing. Mediation is based very much on this very principle, it often being as important for a party in a mediation to simply feel “heard” as the details of actual settlement.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Never too late, Tim. I’m always glad to have you join us, along with your legal mindset. You mentioned mediation and at first I read it as meditation, thinking “how nice; an attorney who knows meditation.” Shows you where my head is. Thanks for picking up on those two points, too. In hindsight, I wish I had emphasized them a bit more. I’m going to give subscriber Kelly Sagert credit for the word “gift” as that developed from a conversation I had with her before publishing the first one. I also like your use of “being in service” to another. Indeed, I think that’s the path that will allow civil discourse to actually work.

      I’m heartened by your contribution. Thank you.

  8. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Thanks for this, Anna. I found it fascinating. Especially the joke:
    “…there still was the joke about Brezhnev’s meeting with Nixon who announced he likes to collect jokes about him and now he has three volumes full. ‘Me too, me too!’ responded Brezhnev. “I have five prison camps full of them!’ But at least it was a joke.”

    I’d love to do a post about the cultural differences in humor. Some day.

    To bring the topic back to civil discourse, I’m wondering if the secrecy that was so necessary in the Soviet Union, prevented you from having the experience of “discoursing civilly” with anyone with a different opinion. How much divergent opinion was allowed during Soviet years? Can you say?

    • Anna
      | Reply

      Well, Soviet Union was huge, and only half were Russians. So huge national and cultural differences, and I can only talk from my POV.

      Officially in Soviet Union was only one opinion – printed on the front page of the central newspapers. Period.

      Unofficially there were samizdat (illegal highly criminal self publications), tamizdat (something imported from the West, even more illegal), the Voices (Radio Free Europe, Voice of America) and of course, the powerful grapevine of gossips.
      Newspapers were too boring to read, and nobody believed anyway, the same with radio and TV. Sounds bad? Not so. People (communists or the opposition) had nothing to distract them with trash we are fed today – who sleeps with who, who farted, who has new villa, and what happened at last PETA event – all day long you are now bombarded with trivia, with – lets be honest – a noise, a shit. Thus important pieces of information were treasured, passed around and in general – people were more involved , one way or another (even excessive drinking Russians are so famous for was a form of self-preservation, when reality was too hard to face). I remember presidential election of 1976, when we sat at kitchen and listened the results as they come in, and hoped for Ford, I remember 1980, the same kitchen, and again, fingers crossed for Reagan – for us it was important, as we believed GOP stands stronger against Soviets.
      Books were harder to get (and more dangerous), but music was available easily on the black market (reel-to-reel copies) and every new album was available withing 4-6 weeks at the most. Music did it for us – we were really keen to learn English so songs can be understood.
      Jeans were not available, but again – that’s black market for and all our friends had at least a pair of Wranglers or Levi’s. For youngsters it was a way to keep the Soviet reality away a bit.
      So in reality everything had 2 separate layers – official politics and economy, and as a parallel universe – dissidents, grapevine of gossips, and black economy.
      As far as parallel universe was a toy of intelligentsia, Soviets didn’t bother much – few forbidden books, few reels of rock – let them be if they keep it low key and don’t cross the line. Soviets get worried when civil disobedience reached workers – then things like Novocherkassk massacre or Vorkuta uprising happened. My father survived Vorkuta uprising, and since then he wasn’t able to cope with a dog, especially German Shepherd, in close proximity. Thus my dogless childhood had purely political reasons.
      Gorby with his perestroika did one big mistake – he shifted that invisible line. Suddenly something previously forbidden was allowed, some economy shifts happened. And everybody, from bottom to top, got confused – where is that line now?
      Gorby was desperate to save economy, and West grabbed the deal – let the Eastern Europe slip out of the bear hug, tear down that wall in Berlin in exchange of economical support.
      Baltic States, Georgia, Ukraine and the rest was unplanned side effect. It just happened in the havoc. When genie gets out of bottle, it’s hard to get it back. Gorby moved the line by an inch, people took it and moved by a mile. Because the knowledge and values were there, they were not killed, only muted during Soviet occupation.
      When you can’t protest directly (during 50’s-80’s it would be suicidal), people found replacements. Like environment or folklore. Suddenly a rather mundane folk-song becomes a secret hymn of resistance, and officials can’t do anything about it as the said song has nothing for censorship to hook on.
      Not sure if you will get the feel, but here is a video from the folk song festival 1985 – about how civil disobedience happened. (Sorry for quality)
      The flag is down, concert is over, but the singers (about 40k on that stage) demand a song, and it happens. The Song (nothing exciting for you, usual boring choir song) becomes a peaceful protest, a civil disobedience you take home like a light, a hope, a promise. The majority of conductors (in gray) feel a bit uncomfortable. Then comes the folk song – again, off the official list, the song that was our hidden hymn over the Soviet years, started by singers themselves. You can see how conductors one by one gave in – they literally push each other away just to step in and have these few notes. They risked with their future, career, everything – just to be part of that power. Perestroika started only a year later, so this is before, this is how it started from the bottom.

      • Janet Givens
        | Reply

        As I watched this, the “boring choir song” comes in at about 3. And we start to see the conductors at about 5. The folk song begins at about 9.
        Anna, what is the significance of the one conductor in black and the others in grey? Who is the woman who looks at her watch at 12? And who are the cameras filming the conductors from 9 on?
        I’m also really curious about what brought so many singers together in the first place. That is a huge choir if it’s 40,000 voices. Was it a choir festival? Can you give us a few lines from the folk song?

        • Anna
          | Reply

          We have two choir festivals – adults and children. The circle is every 4 years, since 1873. (basically the same as Olympics – every 4 years summer games, and then the winter games).
          On that stage for the final go only the best choirs, winners of the local competitions.
          Soviets in general played with folk songs and dance, or, at least, trimmed, uniformed version – to accentuate the different nations blossoming under the prosperous Soviet sun 😀 It was rather ironic at the end as Soviets still were sponsoring buses, costumes and everything for singers who gathered to sing at anti-Soviet protests.

          The old conductor in black simply refused to wear @Soviet@ uniform for the song festival. The rest are wearing gray as it was chosen color for the festival that year. Cameras are official TV as these concerts always were aired on TV (tickets sell out instantly). So it is an official, Soviet approved festival, but the spiritual meaning for the participants is already anti-Soviet at this point.
          The woman is one of the Ministry of Culture officials (an official festival badge on her lapel). The top official, typical for Soviet system, is at the beginning 0:30, when he pronounces flag ceremony.
          And now about the folk song 😀 (Free translation)

          Blow ye winds and drive my boat
          Send me on to Courland*.
          A Courish woman promised me
          Her daughter, a deft worker, for my bride.
          Promises, promises — but she broke her promise —
          She said I was a drunkard.
          She said I was a drunkard
          And a reckless horse racer.
          Which tavern did I ever drink dry?
          Whose horse did I race into the ground?
          I drank on my own tab
          And raced my own horse.
          And I married my very own bride
          Without her parents’ knowledge.

          (*Courland is the westernmost province of Latvia).

          So as you can see, hard for Soviet censorship to find anything to ban the song. 😀

          But for us it meant maybe more as “We Shall Overcome” for a certain generation on your side of the ocean.

  9. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Thank you for the information, Anna. That was helpful. Music is so powerful in bringing people together. It’s great to know this story of how important it was in Latvia and her push for independence.

  10. Anna
    | Reply

    The next stage of civil disobedience would be direct peaceful actions. For us it was The Baltic Way (You will find article on Wikipedia) Picture for you

  11. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    I must salute you Janet for the way in which your provoke such interesting and informed discussion with participants from all over the globe. Opinion can be very diverse, but is shared in a spirit of common interest that highlights the value of ‘civil discourse’.To share such insights is really a privilege and recognition is due to you for making all this possible.

    I look forward to receiving your posts more than any other among the blogs I read, for I know it will always be filled with Treasure.

    Thank you. 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Wow, Ian. Thank you so much. You always add a bit of spice.

      • Ian Mathie
        | Reply

        That probably comes from eating raw chillies and chewing nutmeg! 🙂

  12. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet —

    I absolutely, completely, totally, and wholeheartedly resonate with:

    Civil discourse begins with listening.
    Do not listen with the intent to reply, but with the intent to understand.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      If only it could be consistently easier, Laurie. I’d patent that secret. Thanks for stopping by. I’m counting the days until you are back with the rest of us earthlings. 🙂

    • Ian Mathie
      | Reply

      And the desire to learn something, Laurie.

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