- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Washington residents largely have been on their best behavior lately, displaying such acts of kindness as shoveling sidewalks for elderly neighbors and helping strangers dislodge their vehicles from snowbanks.

But for those among us who pushed their way onto Metro trains during the blizzards or are lapsing into their old, unfriendly ways, the D.C. Council has declared March 20 as Polite Day.

“Polite Day is really just getting people back to the basics of just being decent to one another,” said D.C. Council member Harry Thomas, who sponsored the resolution. “I think good will goes a long way.”

Mr. Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, will rely first on churchgoers in his district to spread the word about Polite Day and hopes the message will reach community groups, then blossom across the city to include public servants and politicians.

“Were going to try to be the beacon of hope and bring the rest of the city together,” he said. “That’s why I did a citywide resolution.”

Mr. Thomas thinks most people are not intentionally rude, just absorbed and distracted by trying to deal with everyday life.

“They don’t have time to get out of their shells,” he said.

Part-time D.C. resident Andy Karellas agrees.

“It’s because they have a lot of business to do,” he said. “They’re on their BlackBerrys 24-7, and that’s just part of the D.C. culture, [but] I’ll set it in my calendar and spread the word.”

Other residents around the city also seem to have embraced the idea.

“I think that would be a great day,” said D.C. resident Jeffrey Juhans. “I think we could always be more courteous and kind to one another. … I will definitely take more time on that day to be polite.”

Still, resident Michelle Mesen hoped politeness would not have to be marked on a day planner.

“I guess I feel like every day should be Polite Day,” she said. “We shouldn’t necessarily have a day to think about it. But if that’s what it takes for people to be conscious [of] one another, then I guess it’s a good thing.”

Mr. Thomas said the idea of Polite Day came to him from Jay Speights, a writer for the Communities section of The Washington Times’ Web site.

Mr. Speights, also an author and spiritual coach, asked city officials to declare the day to “create a more mindful atmosphere of being civil.”

He said people today are “living on the edge” and that the war, the economy — even eating fast food — is only adding to “bad attitudes.”

Mr. Speights said he was prompted to ask for a Polite Day after an especially tough commute last year across the city and that the idea should extend from President Obama and Congress to every resident.

This is not the first call for civility, to be sure, nor is it the exclusive domain of conservatives or Republicans, with the minority party usually making the plea.

Mr. Thomas admitted that declaring a Polite Day “sounded a little hokey at first,” then the idea grew on him so much he wanted to extend the resolution to the first Monday of every month.

He said the resolution already has worked on the oft-divided, 13-member D.C. Council because everybody voted yes.

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