A number of years ago—eight, to be exact—we were visiting our daughter and got into a discussion about the upcoming election. I told my daughter that she would make a good president, and suggested jokingly that she consider running. Then, just for fun, I went on to name different departments, agencies, or cabinet positions that members of our family would be suited for. I came up with one for my husband, our kids, and a few other family members—everyone but myself. That’s when I decided what we really needed—and was missing—in the federal government was a Department of Nice. So I put myself in charge of that one.

When we got  home from our visit, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column on the subject, including the fact that I was going to run the Department of Nice, which was sorely needed. Ironically, this generated one of only two negative responses I ever got in my 16 years of writing a weekly newspaper column. And it was the only one in which someone was not only menacing and insulting, but told me to go f*** myself. Which kind of proved my point about the need for a Department of Nice.

I’m bringing this up today because it seems that a Department of Nice is needed now more than ever—not only among the leaders of our  country, but in the general public as well. I firmly believe that common courtesy—which is not at all common today—could go a long way toward solving problems. I am also convinced that treating others respectfully—even if you don’t actually respect them—would lower the temperature of most battles and disagreements, and raise the success rate of many interactions.

So even though there is no Department of Nice in the federal government, or anywhere else, here are a few things that would be promoted if there were one—especially if I were running it. The first suggestion would be to resurrect and observe the Golden Rule of treating others the way you would want them to treat you.

The next one, which would silence practically all conversations, interviews, and congressional hearings if it were followed today, is to follow the rule that if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.

These would be followed by some of the advice Robert Fulghum offered in his 1986 book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, including: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Clean up your own mess. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. And when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone acted this way?

March 11, 2024
©Betty Liedtke, 2024

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