Conflict and Civility in Political Discourse: Where Is the Line?

November 9, 2011 – November 10, 2011
8:30 AM
Sheraton Iowa City Hotel

Are you so turned off by the current state of our political discourse that you've just tuned out? If so, you are not alone. To many the US appears hopelessly stuck in a hyperpartison, no holds barred, over the top race towards self-destruction.

But is this really the case? Did things used to be better? Can anything be done to stop the insanity?

This symposium was designed to contribute to the national dialogue by promoting civil discourse in the public sphere, with special emphasis on the political climate and voter sensibilities. Our goal was to approach the topic of civil discourse from an innovative, interdisciplinary and multi-partisan perspective.

The 2-day event included academic, political, and media perspectives, along with film screenings and art exhibits about the role of civil discourse in the development of policy. Discussions included historical perspectives on civil discourse in the US; rhetorical and artistic perspectives; the role of social media; the views of state and federal politicians; and the implications of the Citizens United Supreme Court case on political dialogue.

Events were free and open to the public. 


November 9, 2011

Film and Discussion
Associate Professor Intermedia, University of Iowa
English and Cinema and Comparative Literature, University of Iowa
President University of Iowa
Director Public Policy Center
Executive Director Character Counts In Iowa
Panel 1: Historical perspectives: The more things change...
Department of English University of Iowa
Bipartisan Policy Center
Newsweek and the Daily Beast
Panel 2: Social media and political discourse
Political Science Department University of Iowa
Senior advisor to Senator John Thune
Center for American Progress
Local Iowa City blogger
Panel 3: Rhetorical perspectives / Cultural interpretations
Department of Communication Studies University of Iowa
American Studies & Communication and Culture Indiana University
College of Law University of Iowa
School of Library and Information Science University of Iowa
Afternoon Keynote: Have We Lost a Culture of Democratic Argument?
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics Chicago Divinity School

November 10, 2011

Evening keynote: Politics: A Game to Win or a Challenge to Lead?
Chairman National Endowment for the Humanities
Morning Welcome and perspectives on discourse
U.S. House of Representatives
Morning Keynote: Wisconsin Politics 2011 and the Impact on Discourse
Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy Marquette University Law School
Campaign Finance, Citizens United and the impact on discourse
Department of Political Science University of Northern Iowa
College of Law University of Iowa
Political Science Department University of Iowa
Center for Law and Health at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis
Women and Political Discourse
Political Science Department University of Iowa
Former State Senator and Co-chair of 50/50 in 2020
Senator Dubuque, Iowa
Gender Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota
The Iowa Caucuses: an example of civil discourse in action
Host and Moderator Iowa Press, IPTV
Johnson Country Republican
Chair Iowa Democratic Party
Department of Political Science University of Iowa
Media coverage and the impact on civil discourse
Carrie Chapman att Center for Women and Politics Iowa State University
Iowa City Press Citizen
Cedar Rapids Gazette
Des Moines Register
The Daily Iowan
Quad City Times


  • UI Public Policy Center’s Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy
  • UI Student Government
  • Office of the Vice President for Research
  • Office of the Provost
  • College of Liberal Arts
  • College of Law
  • College of Education
  • College of Public Health
  • School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Department of Sociology
  • The Sudhindra Bose Lecture Series of the Department of Political Science
  • Department of Communication Studies
  • Iowa Women’s Archives
  • UI Libraries
  • Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
  • University Lecture Committee
  • Obermann Center for Advanced Studies
  • Center for Human Rights
  • The Daily Iowan
  • Cedar Rapids Gazette
  • Quad City Times
  • Johnson County League of Women Voters
  • UI College Republicans
  • Iowa Democratic Party
  • Republican Party of Iowa
  • UI Digital Studio for the Public Humanities and the School of Art and Art History MSPD Intermedia Program
  • UI Institute for Cinema and Culture
  • Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce
  • No Labels
  • Johnson County Community for Successful Aging
  • PATV
The Forkenbrock Series provides a forum for dialogue about policy areas from applied, academic, and interdisciplinary perspectives. The series was established in honor of David Forkenbrock, a nationally recognized transportation researcher. Dr. Forkenbrock established the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa in 1987 and directed the Center until 2007. His vision was to enable public and private sector decision makers to work with faculty, staff, and student researchers to explore solutions to complex problems related to the public interest.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Leslie Gannon at (319) 335-6817 or