A South Carolina Baptist layman voiced disappointment after the three remaining candidates for U.S. president rebuffed his challenge to a one-day moratorium on incivility.
For the 10th anniversary of Say Something Nice Day, founder Mitch Carnell asked presidential candidates to agree to a two part pledge: do not say anything negative about each other and if possible say something nice on June 1.
All three candidates not only ignored a May 20 deadline to respond to the challenge, Carnell said, but if anything stepped up the negativity that characterizes much of today’s polarized political debate.
Carnell, a member of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., said the committee promoting the annual observance hoped a one-day lull in the war of words would have a positive influence leading to a more civil discussion of issues facing the country.
”We are in need of good examples of civility in the public square,” Carnell told the Baptist Courier, newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. “The present level of rhetoric is totally lacking in respect for differing viewpoints.”
The candidates have a second chance to tone down the rhetoric this weekend. June 5 marks the 10th anniversary of Say Something Nice Sunday, an annual observance that began when Carnell observed negativity from both students and teachers when he volunteered to help at an inner-city middle school where his wife taught.
The experience inspired Carnell to write a booklet called Say Something Nice, Be a Lifter! He intended to distribute the book in public and private schools. That didn’t work out, but the idea took root after his home church passed a resolution declaring the first Sunday in June Say Something Nice Sunday.
From there the idea spread to other churches of various denominations, and Say Something Nice Day made its way into the cultural lexicon, appearing today on most online calendars listing major holidays and observances.
Carnell said in an email June 2 he has no way of knowing exactly how many churches or individuals are heeding his call to say something nice. “We ask them to let us know, but only a few do,” “he said.
Ten years into the movement, Carnell said he is pleased with response to his efforts, “but as you know we have a long way to go.”
The First Baptist Church of Charleston website offers free downloadable resources for observing Say Something Nice Sunday on the messages/resources page of the church website.
Carnell said the purpose of Say Something Nice is simple: “On this one day, do not say anything negative about any person, Christian organization or group, and, if possible, say something nice.”
His challenge to the presidential candidates was twofold, that either on June 1 or June 5 “I will refrain from saying anything ugly, demeaning or derogatory to or about anyone, especially any of the other candidates running for the presidency of the United States” and “I will say something nice, uplifting or encouraging to or about at least one person running for the presidency of the United States.”
“I understand that remarks related to physical characteristics are off limits for this exercise,” Carnell stipulated in the candidate pledge.