11/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Civil Discourse Is Alive and Well ... in Colorado

Whether it's teabaggers in town halls or rogue congressmen at presidential addresses, disrespectful expressions of disagreement seem the product of the times. We've come a long way from Tocqueville's engaged America. Today differences of perspective quickly deteriorate into shouting matches at public forums.

I am happy to report, however, that thoughtful, respectful and civil discourse still thrives in the great state of Colorado. Last week I traveled to southwest Colorado for the express purpose of initiating conversations on the sensitive topics of taxes and government spending. Instead of angry, red-faced crowds, I discovered engaged and well informed citizens. The discussion of the question "What Kind of Colorado Do We Want" elicited different opinions but civil conversation.

Maybe it was because our conversations were hosted by local League of Women Voters chapters; maybe it's because the sheer physical beauty of the place mellows tempers. Or maybe people sense the importance of this moment in our state's and our nation's history. They recognize that the change so often promised deserves calm and thoughtful consideration.

In Colorado, we face a choice about our commitment to the public structures that form the foundation of our economic success. Are we going to continue to rank at the bottom of the pack on education, transportation and public health spending or are we going to work together for a greater common good?

These questions of individualism versus public benefit are potentially rife with strident disagreements. They evoke strong feelings and reveal passionately held opinions because they are so important to each of us. And I am relieved and enthused that, at least in Colorado, our citizens are ready and willing to engage in these important conversations in a productive and respectful way.