Building a Civil Society

By Richard M. Long

Former First Lady Michelle Obama reminds us of the important role that school counselors and other educators play every day in fostering civil discourse.

How does one begin a discussion on the strength of our society—one that is becoming more important with each passing day?  

The erosion of civil discourse has presented a new normal, with the continued use, by political and government leaders, of increasingly vulgar terms to describe those who disagree with them. It has resulted in an inability to have disagreements—even as simple as between basketball players and referees—that are resolved without physical altercations.   

The answer is simply to begin by listening to emerging leaders, like Michelle Obama, on the importance of those working daily with our children. Mrs. Obama explains that those people make a far bigger difference in how we act towards one another than government leaders do. She said these words while honoring the School Counselor of the Year at a ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on February 2nd:

“I firmly believe that the men and women on this stage – our counselors and educators – have a far bigger impact on our kids’ lives than any President or First Lady… it doesn’t even come close. It doesn’t come close.

Just think about it for a minute: think about who our students are exposed to nearly every single day – all of you, counselors and educators.

They watch how you dress… they watch how you carry yourselves… they watch how you treat others.

They listen to the language you use… they see how hard you work… they notice whether you show up on time or not, whether you do what you say or not. Whether you do what you say, or not.

Hour after hour, you all serve as living, breathing examples of the kind of people they should aspire to be.”  

With these words, the former first lady became a beacon of hope for not only the School Counselor of the Year, and the state school counselors of the year on the stage with her, but also too to the parents, teachers, principals, custodians, bus drivers, superintendents and school board members who decide, and demonstrate, daily what constitutes acceptable behavior.

Read the complete remarks on

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Michelle Obama introducing the 2018 School Counselor of the Year