LEWISTON — From President Donald Trump’s lashing out, to Facebook “friends” fighting online, there’s too much meanness, name-calling and nasty attacks, Lewiston students said Tuesday.

Hoping to tone it down in their community, the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council unveiled a public campaign called TALK, which stands for Treat All Listeners Kindly.

After observing too many uncivil discussions over everything from national and state politics to local school decisions, “we wanted to do something with positive communication and outreach in the community,” said council chairwoman and Lewiston High School student Jazy Dumas said.

The campaign is to encourage people to be respectful at home, in the community or while talking politics.

“We’re asking people to share their perspective — not their attitude,” Dumas said.

The goal is to encourage people “to think more before saying what comes to mind, to realize that words are powerful.” That, Dumas said, could lead people to be more positive, since kindness is contagious, just like meanness is.

The group unveiled a poster, the face of the campaign designed by LYAC member Clare Kramer, a Saint Dominic Academy student. The poster is of a city street, meant to represent Lewiston, and people going about their day.

Every human has a gift of being able to communicate with others, said LYAC member Carolyn Adams, a Lewiston High School student. “Sometimes we take that gift and use it in a disrespectful way,” she said. 

Listening to others is a more effective way to communicate “than attacking each other,” Adams said.

Kramer said everyone has something to learn from each other, but two-way learning and sharing can only happen “with open minds and hearts.”

The high school students plan to spread their public campaign message through posters and bumper stickers.

They plan to talk to elementary school students, and offer a contest allowing children to submit artwork on positive communication. The artwork may be incorporated into a children’s book.

There will be a positive communication workshop on March 9 led by Stephanie Kelley-Romano, Bates College associate professor and chairwoman of the Rhetoric Department. The community workshop will be interactive.

It will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the YWCA of Central Maine on East Avenue. It is free and open to the public.

If LYAC members run into people treating each other disrespectfully, they might intervene by sharing news about the TALK campaign.

“We will be ambassadors for TALK,” Dumas said. “We may say, “‘Hey, have you heard of TALK?’ then tell (them) what it is.” The hope is that “would influence them in some way to think more about their word choices. That’s our goal.”

The Lewiston Youth Advisory Council is an offshoot of the Lewiston City Council. Four of the eight members, including Emma Williams, presented on Tuesday.

ZamZam Mohamed of Lewiston, a Somali immigrant who’s become a popular cheerleader for the city, attended. She called the students’ campaign to encourage more kindness “fantastic.”

“We really need it,” she said. 

When adults see what the younger generation is doing, Mohamed said she hopes it will change some people’s minds. 

“I hope they support the kids and learn from it,” she said.

Lewiston School Committee Chairwoman Linda Scott also applauded the public TALK campaign.

She plans to invite the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council to the School Committee to present their campaign and spread word of what they’re doing.

The Treat All Listeners Kindly message can work in more situations than discussing politics, she said. 

“It can work in bullying, with everything happening in our community,” Scott said.

When people have different viewpoints, it breaks down into anger.

“We see it everywhere on social media,” she said. “Adults are doing it worse” than young people. “We all need to remember to listen and talk kindly.”

Youth Advisory Council members, from left, Clare Kramer, Carolyn Adams, Jazy Dumas and Emma Williams launch their positive-communication campaign, TALK, at City Hall in Lewiston on Tuesday. TALK stands for Treat All Listeners Kindly. 

Posters promote the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council positive-communication workshop on March 9 at the YWCA of Central Maine in Lewiston. 

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