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Howard County chooses to be a model of civility.


We choose respect, consideration, empathy, and tolerance as our fundamental values, enhancing the community's quality of life.

Principles of Civility

While the Choose Civility initiative was inspired by Dr. Forni's 25 rules of considerate conduct, Howard County has chosen to promote 15 of his rules as guiding ideas and principles that resonate with the community.  Choose Civility promotes the following

Pay attention
Speak kindly
Assume the best
Respect others' opinions
Respect other people's time and space
Be inclusive
Acknowledge others
Accept and give praise
Apologize earnestly
Assert yourself
Take responsibility
Accept and give constructive criticism
Refrain from idle complaints
Be a considerate guest

History of Choose Civility, Howard County, MD

Choose Civility in Howard County was initially inspired by the book, Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct, by Johns Hopkins University Professor Dr. P.M. Forni.  It began as a grassroots effort with an appearance by Dr. Forni at Howard County Library's Professional Development Day in 2006.  The central theme of Forni's book resonated with Library administrators and other community leaders.  As a result, Howard County Library, in partnership with Howard Community College and Leadership Howard County, invited Dr. Forni to speak on the principles of his book at a kickoff event for the initiative in February 2007.

Read more about the History of Choose Civility.

Why Choose Civility is important to Howard County

The question, "Why in Howard County?", arises regularly and has revealed that there are two basic reasons for the immense interest in the initiative.
1.  Howard County is already one of the most civil communities in the country, and celebrates this hallmark.
2.  A highly educated community, residents aspire to live the vision and appreciate the reminder.  Civility is a journey, not a destination.

While Howard County aims to enhance its own quality of life through Choose Civility, the initiative is benefitting communities in the region and beyond, as others are inspired to implement similar initiatives.

  • February 2007 - Leadership Howard County, along with Howard Community College and the Library, kicked off Choose Civility with a keynote address by Dr. Forni, followed by breakout sessions.
  • Sponsors (past and present) include: Ascend One; Friends of Howard County Library; Horizon Foundation; Howard County General Hospital, A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Leadership Howard County; M&T Bank; Teri and Wilson Harrison.
  • Purchased 2,000 of Dr. Forni's book, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct (more than Harry Potter); distributed 700 to HCPSS and 200 to HCC.
  • Distributed more than 65,000 "Choose Civility, Howard County" car magnets and window decals.
  • Held first Choose Civility Symposium, Civility Begins with Me, on May 14, 2008, with keynote speaker Joe Ehrmann. Attracted an audience of 350 people.
  • Developed Strategic Plan, which was introduced on January 26, 2009.
  • Eighty-seven students from Cradlerock school came to Howard County Library's East Columbia Branch to participate in Kindness Counts, a Choose Civility class developed for inclusion in the Library's A+ Curriculum Enhancement Guide. Canadian production company 90th Parallel Film & Television Productions Ltd. videotaped the class for inclusion in a one-hour documentary, Rude: Where are our Manners?, which explores ideas of modern civility, or lack thereof. Two Library instructors, Donna LaBelle and Stacey Freedman, performed the book, Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller, then involved the students in a lively discussion on civility. The documentary won the Platinum Award at the 2009 WorldFest Houston Film Festival and the Gold World Medal, Human Relations at the 2009 New York TV Programming & Promotions Festival.

Leadership and Support Structure for Choose Civility

A community-wide support structure guides Choose Civility, involving a lead organization, Board of Advisors, and committees.

Lead Organization - Howard County Library provides leadership and direction for the initiative as well as in-kind support for project and communications management, partnerships and fund raising.

Board of Advisors - A group of 15 to 20 individuals representing diverse segments of the community guides the strategic, visionary, and goal oriented aspects of the initiative.

Committees - A structure of three working committees guide, develop, and support the initiative in the areas of partnership and sponsorship development, event planning, and marketing communications.

Strategic Plan

Choose Civility has created a Strategic Plan that articulates the vision and goals for the initiative as well as program components, including community events, classes, activities, marketing tools, and partnering strategies.  Download Strategic Plan.