Allegheny College is one of the nation’s oldest liberal-arts colleges, with a long tradition of passionate but civil intellectual debate. Deeply troubled by the rise of incivility in U.S. politics, and its negative impacts on political participation, particularly among young people, the College created the Civility Prize in 2011 to highlight and reinforce the unheralded public figures who advance civility.
The Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life annually recognizes two political figures, one from the left and one from the right, who argue passionately but respectfully for their beliefs. Now in its fifth year, the Prize seeks to honor politicians who have demonstrated steadfast civility throughout their career or have shown authentic, courageous civility at an important moment in time. Previous winners include:
- The inaugural award was bestowed at the National Press Club in 2012 to political journalists David Brooks and Mark Shields, in recognition of their longstanding record of civil commentary.
- In 2013, the College awarded the Prize to Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Lindsey Graham (R) for their efforts to exemplify civility while leading debate in some of the most contentious issues of our time.
- The “Women of the Senate” were honored in 2014 for banding together to help end a government shutdown and creating a more civil climate in Washington, D.C.
- In 2015, in recognition of Allegheny’s bicentennial celebration, noted historian Douglas Brinkley helped choose former Montgomery (AL) Police Chief Kevin Murphy for taking off his badge and giving it to Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) as an act of contrition for the police department’s treatment of Lewis in 1961.
- In 2016, the fifth annual Prize was awarded to Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John McCain. These two political giants – one from the left and one from the right – have demonstrated throughout the course of their distinguished careers the benefits of civil behavior, and who showed remarkable moments of civility during recent Presidential campaigns.