Dear Fellow Citizen:
Please allow me to start by thanking you for reading my open letter and extending to me, a few moments of your very valuable time. I am the Executive Director of The Etiquette Foundation of Illinois, a nonprofit educational organization devoted to improving social decorum and civility in our State. To accomplish what we believe to be a very worthy and noble cause, we have embarked upon a very ambitious agenda for the New Year and want to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves and give you a brief overview of what we hope to accomplish.
We believe the current state of social comportment is contributing to a higher degree of incivility across all levels of our society. People no longer respect the rules of civil society, and the prerequisite social interaction that made civil society possible. The data are replete with study after study, poll after poll reaffirming the decline in civility and social comportment across the entire social spectrum. People are more hostile, rude, and ill-mannered than ever before. There are many reasons for why we are less civil, but the results are clearly affecting the very quality of our daily lives in a very subtle but disturbing way.
The most obvious ramification is in how we are viewed by those who do not live in our State and reflected in their desire to spend the least amount of time here. From an economic standpoint, millions of dollars are theoretically lost to our economy each day as a consequence of how we are viewed by the outside world. Economic development, tourism and tourist dollars are directly linked to the bottom-line and thus our prosperity as a State is being impacted. When those who are visiting our State feel the people are friendly, polite and considerate, they leave feeling much better about their visit and are more apt to return sooner, and stay longer than they would otherwise have chosen to do. So therefore, our goal as an organization is to encourage our citizenry to be more mindful of their manners in public and of their citizenship responsibility to always conduct themselves in the most respectful and courteous manner possible. We believe people, by their very nature, need to be encouraged to behave better, and when they do, they act better, and we all benefit as a State.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our concerns about the quality of public education here in the State of Illinois. Our children are not receiving the social education they will need to function as socially competent, well-adjusted citizens. Learning the rules of civilized behavior does not occur by happenstance. It is a learned value system made up of very clear rules of behavior. Teaching our children manners is indeed, the missing link to their sociological and educational development, and without careful cultivation of this important dimension of their humanity, we are going to produce another generation of social illiterates, incapable of contributing in a productive way to their offspring and to the economies of their respective communities. Adding Etiquette Training to the curriculum in our public and private schools, would, we believe, create an environment conducive to learning by restoring order in the school and in the classroom where teachers can devote their time to teaching their students and learning can once again be the priority of our children.
We consider our mission to be monumental and generational and we need the help of every concerned citizen. We are competing with other states in the union and on a global level with other nations. Any effort to improve civil discourse in our State would certainly be positive, if only to create a more respectful and polite citizenry. We are in this together, and we are in a struggle to foster the highest ideals in social values that we consider to be at the heart of who we are as a society. We see creative ways to redirect our social and cultural path and we are reaching out to the larger community for support in what we believe to be a grand and noble cause for a better social reality. We are formulating media initiatives and campaigns to bring public attention to the role civility plays in our daily lives. To promote Illinois as the “Polite State” and to create a socially conscious citizenry will take the support and input of many caring and committed individuals. With the help of our elected officials, the business and civic community and more importantly, you the individual citizen, we, together may change the social dynamics of our State. Illinois can become the model of civility and commerce that attracts people and substantial economic growth. With your help, we can become the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family. We are committed to transforming Illinois into the talk of the nation. We are calling on you for support. We invite your participation in our program initiatives. We have launched our Etiquette Ambassador At-Large Program to help get the word out about the importance of good manners in our everyday lives. We have a goal of signing-up 100,000 citizens to become Etiquette Ambassadors At-Large. We invite your input and ideas to achieve this social transformation for the social/cultural and economic good of our State. Again, thank you for your time. We welcome your inquiries.
Nathan Wright, Executive Director