Civility in Politics

March 7, 2017

The Conflict Resolution Forum hosted speaker Michael Minch as part of a lecture series on civility in politics. Minch is a professor at Utah Valley University and travels the world for conflict transformation work.

Minch developed a passion for conflict resolution and peacebuilding through his growing up years. He was raised in a small town in Nebraska. Neither of his parents had finished high school and made their living in a “hard scrabble way.”

“We grew up in a simple home, in a simple family,” Minch said. “I am the first person in my family to go to college, not only in my immediate family but in my extended family.”

After a move to Arizona, Minch became involved with the Baptist church and committed to being a Christian man. He became a minister and was able to counsel his congregation to lead an active life of justice. Through his ministry, he realized that he had a passion to teach and left the ministry to pursue a Ph.D. “My faith was profoundly important to me, and it led me into my professional life,” Minch said. “I believe teaching is my life’s calling–your calling is where the world’s needs and your joys intersect.”

While teaching at UVU, Minch was deeply moved and shaken by the terrorist attack on 9/11. In response to worries about a war on terrorism, he began to host teach-ins and noticed a strong reaction from students. He decided to create a peace and justice studies program at UVU. After directing the program for 12 years, Minch recently stepped down to focus on other career goals.

In his presentation, Minch also addressed the political conflicts in America caused by the 2016 presidential election. According to him, there have been spikes in hate speech and activities that are demonstrations of fear, hatred, and xenophobia. “The violence aside, we are seeing a lot of mistrust, fear, and demonization of those who are on different sides of this election,” he said.

With the objective of presenting a strategy that would encourage peace and build bridges between political rivals, Minch had students in his conflict transformation and peacebuilding classes approach those of opposite political views. He suggested students meet with people who had voted differently in the presidential election than the student had and find out why. “If you give them the respect they need to receive, and we communicate carefully, you may find out,” he informed his students. In return, he hoped that the people who voted differently would want to hear the other side of the story.

“It’s interesting that people who have skills in peacebuilding go to difficult conflict spots around the world and solve those problems, and we fail to do that here,” Minch noted.