State Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, got plenty of advice when she recently asked several House members from both sides of the aisle to discuss their favorite ways to resolve conflicts at the Capitol. One legislator even cites reggae legend Bob Marley.
Noting that lawmakers recently passed a bipartisan resolution to join Gov. John Hickenlooper in recognizing October as “Conflict Resolution Month” in Colorado — the vote was unanimous in both chambers, although a handful of House members were marked as excused — Herod set out with a camera to see what her colleagues thought and posted the results online in a short, snappy video.
“Managing conflicts is having a sense of humor and having a conversation,” says state Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs.
State Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, says she tries to make a point of working with people who disagree with her, later adding that she tries to get past their disagreements.
“It’s so much better to go and talk to them and sit down and say, ‘Where’s the Venn diagram of what we agree on?’ I think we all have things that we agree on, and that’s what we should start with,” she says.
“Try to open up those lines of communication,” says state Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Roxborough Park, says lawmakers should keep conflicts in perspective. “We don’t always have to agree,” she says, “but we don’t have to be disagreeable.”
State Rep.. James Coleman, D-Denver, stresses the importance about acknowledging conflict and building that into potential resolutions.
“Be intentional and start off early by making sure you have support from folks who don’t agree with your personal beliefs,” he says.
Assistant House Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, no stranger to conflict resolution in his career as a litigator, says, “One of the things about what we do here is try to exchange ideas and expand our mind and try to learn a little more about someone else’s perspective.”
Fellow lawyer — and an announced candidate for attorney general — state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Denver, offers this advice: “Sometimes you just have to step away and you have to think about it, because if you’re not listening, then it just results in more heated debate.”
As the video nears its conclusion, Salazar returns to the screen and invokes Marley, whose protest songs still ring out in leftist circle.
“We’re in a day and age when there’s a lot of conflict in the world and, as Bob Marley said, you can be that light, you can be that light in the world and try to brighten it up,” Salazar says, pointing to the camera.
As the video fades to display Herod’s contact information on Twitter and Facebook, the audio of her interview with Salazar continues. “I did get it right, it was Bob Marley that said that?” he asks. “I don’t know, but we’re using it!” she says with an audible smile.
While none of Marley’s voluminous lyrics include the phrase Salazar cites, once when Marley took the stage two days after he had been shot and was asked how he could perform, he is said to have replied, “The people that are trying to make the world worse never take a day off , why should I. Light up the darkness.” Will Smith quotes the Marley lines in the movie “I Am Legend.” (Salazar pointed to the phrase in a Facebook post on Wednesday night as his inspiration.) Matthew 5:14, as well, has similar language (“You are the light of the world,” the biblical verse reads. “A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”).
There’s also a popular meme posted widely on social media that depicts a burning candle resting on someone’s hand with the legend, “Best advice I’ve ever gotten: Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence,” although it’s doubtful Salazar was thinking of this.
Senate Joint Resolution 17-015 celebrates all manner of resolving conflicts — naming mediation, arbitration, facilitation, collaborative decision-making, ombudsmen activities and restorative justice practices — and urges the judicial system and communities across the state to promote conflict resolution.
The measure’s prime sponsors were state Sens. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, and state Reps. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, and Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs.
The resolution tips its hat to House Joint Resolution 97-1020, a measure passed 20 years ago that urged Colorado courts to expand the use of alternative-dispute resolution.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include the Bob Marley quote that inspired state Rep. Joe Salazar’s equally poetic words.