Civility discussion at Carmel library aimed at sparking cultural shift 


As the daughter of an etiquette expert, Alexandra O. Hudson has long believed in the importance of minding her manners.

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But during a stint working in national politics several years ago, she realized that being polite didn’t often ease the deepening tensions she saw between those who disagreed. Sometimes, in fact, it was a detriment, such as when she witnessed people who were poised and polished use their good manners to achieve ruthless or cruel results.

“This experience galvanized for me the essential difference between civility and politeness. Politeness is etiquette, manners and external technique, where civility is something deeper, a way of seeing others as our moral equals who are worthy of a bare minimum of respect just by virtue of being human,” she said. “Sometimes, respecting others requires being impolite, telling hard truths and engaging in robust debate.”

Hudson’s experience inspired her to write a book, “The Soul of Civility: Timeless Principles to Heal Society and Ourselves,” released in October 2023 and published by St. Martin’s Press. She will visit the Carmel Clay Public Library at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 to speak at a free event called “Civility: We Can Do Better” to share concepts in the book and encourage a spirit of civility on the local level.

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Book cover of “The Soul of Civility.” (Photo courtesy of Addison Patrick)

Carmel City Councilor Jeff Worrell organized the event, which he will moderate, after being enlightened and inspired by Hudson’s book during the 2023 campaign season. He said he’s observed an increasing lack of civility in recent years and wanted to do his part to reverse the trend, at least in his hometown.

“I’m not saying Carmel has a lack of civility, but I do think there is plenty of room for growth,” he said. “I would like to start being able to share the concept that we can disagree, we can be vehemently opposed, but I still respect you, with no desire to hurt you or punish you or embarrass you. But I disagree and ask you to respect my position just as I respect your position.”

Worrell said he hopes the library event will launch a continued focus on civility in Carmel, and he encourages anyone interested in continuing the effort to contact him to help determine what comes next. Possibilities include a citywide book club, small group discussions or a civility app.

“I’m looking for an army of Carmel citizens who are motivated by this concept and want to do something within their community to foster this as a cultural shift,” he said.

Hudson, an Indianapolis resident and adjunct professor at the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy, said she wrote the book to empower everyday citizens and that a cultural shift toward civility must begin at the local level.

“I hope that this event is the start of something really exciting in Carmel and in our country,” Hudson said. “We severely under-appreciate the power we each have to be part of the solution.”

Register to attend the library event at Learn more about Hudson and “The Soul of Civility” at Contact Worrell at [email protected] or 317-471-9836.