A Vision for Civility – A Conversation with Members of the Center Aisle Caucus

A public discussion with members of the Center Aisle Caucus.

line drawing of a person in a chair talking, audience members, and a person with a microphone



Charles F. Knight Center, Main Dining Room Washington University in St. Louis

One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics hosted a discussion with members of the Center Aisle Caucus; U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), and U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) about the roles that citizens, elected leaders, and the media can and should play in promoting civility in a democratic society – how we can all constructively engage in vigorous debates without demonizing those with whom we disagree.

The Center Aisle Caucus was formed in 2005 to provide a forum for building relationships among members.  Since then, the Caucus has hosted many thought-provoking guests and events.  Speakers have included former Speaker Tom Foley, House Minority Leader Bob Michel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, pollster John Zogby, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as several ambassadors, authors, and policy experts.

About the Participants

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson is the first Republican woman to represent Missouri in Congress and has served eight-plus terms in the House of Representatives.  Congresswoman Emerson is a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, and also sits on the Agriculture Subcommittee and Legislative Branch Subcommittee.  Currently, Congresswoman Emerson serves as chairperson of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security.  She is co-chair of the Board of Directors for the Congressional Hunger Center, one of the nation’ s leading hunger relief organizations.  Jo Ann is also a founding member of the Bipartisan Congressional Retreat, whose mission is to foster better relations in Congress with Members from each party.

U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004 and has worked to help families and businesses throughout the greater St. Louis region by supporting strong economic development, encouraging innovation, and preserving national security through greater international engagement.  Carnahan serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Veteran Affairs Committee, and is Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, where he has called for a strict accounting of the rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Carnahan has promoted the St. Louis region as a hub for innovation, particularly in developing new, clean sources of energy that will create jobs, cut energy costs for families and business, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, succeeding his father, the Honorable Bill Clay, who served for 32 years and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.  Prior to his election to the U.S. House, Clay served for 17 years in both chambers of the Missouri Legislature.  Clay was selected to join the House Democratic leadership team where he serves as one of eight Deputy Democratic Whips.  He is tasked with coordinating votes among delegations in Region IV, which includes Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas.  Clay serves on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has major oversight and investigative responsibilities for the operations of the federal government.  Clay is also a member of the Financial Services Committee, where he serves as the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy.  The Financial Services Committee has broad jurisdiction over banking, insurance, investment firms, pensions, consumer credit, and capital markets.

Professor Wayne Fields, founding director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics joined the English Department at Washington University as an instructor in 1968.  Still teaching at Washington University 43 years later, he has since served as Chair of the Department of English, Dean of University College and as Director of that same College’s Master of Liberal Arts Program.  He helped establish the American Culture Studies Program in 1996, and functioned as its Director until 2008.  He also helmed the Democracy and Citizenship Initiative from 2008-2010 before taking on his current responsibilities with the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics in January of 2010.

This event is being co-sponsored by the Assembly Series, the Gephardt Institute for Public Service, and the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.  The presentation is free and open to the public; RSVPs are not required.