Letter from PRSA Oregon President on Violence at US Capitol

Yesterday, we watched with horror as a violent mob, incited by our President, attacked the United States Capitol in an attempt to impede our democratic tradition of a peaceful transition of Presidential power. 

As communicators, we know full well how heated emotional arguments can get out of hand.  Today, these events call on us to use our skills to defuse such situations and help each other to – at the very least — agree to disagree.  Our skills can do more than that, they can help unite and heal a hurting nation. Regardless of our political affiliations or views, we must stand together to condemn violence and help our divided nation find common ground.

Michelle Olsen, President of PRSA sent a poignant email to all members today and I repeat it here in part:

No matter what one’s political leanings are, we must all, as PRSA members and as citizens of this great country, join together to help restore faith in our democracy, and continue to model the importance of behaving civilly, peacefully and ethically. The world is watching, and our employers, clients and associates are relying on our guidance and example.

We are all in a unique position, one that is more important than ever, to demonstrate leadership and serve as steady voices at a time of great imbalance. Timely, accurate and truthful information – in context – is the foundation of our role as communicators.  Yesterday’s actions show what can happen when the channels of communication are compromised with mis/disinformation.

And we must thank and support our counterparts in the media who so bravely reported from inside and outside the United States Capitol, risking their own safety to help tell the story as the day’s events unfolded.

It is also crucial for us to consider our PRSSA students, how strange and scary this must be for all of them, but also how eager they are to get involved and find solutions to problems. We must resolve to serve as strong advisors and mentors, and help guide them as they search for their own ways, and use their own voices, to help make a difference in society.

– Michelle Olsen, PRSA President 2021

In times like these, I take heart in our PRSA code of ethics. These two values seem worth noting now: “we adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth,” and we “honor our obligation to serve the public interest, while being faithful to those we represent.”

Very best,