“Our founding Fathers had a deep and abiding belief in self-governance: the idea that power ultimately resides in the voices and wisdom of the people.”
– Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer



Voters are frustrated, worried, and angry with their leaders and ashamed of how our political process works these days. Heated rhetoric and a dramatic shift away from bipartisan collaboration pervade national politics, leaving us unable to solve the major challenges confronting our nation.

NICD envisions elected officials who work collaboratively to tackle the big issues facing our country; a media that accurately informs and involves citizens; and a public that actively engages with its government -- of the people, by the people, for the people. Joining forces, we can ensure that civility emerges once again as the glue that binds, repairs and strengthens our Democratic nation.



The National Institute for Civil Discourse integrates research, practice and policy to support and engage: 

  • Elected officials who are capable of working to solve the big issues facing our country.
  • A public that demands civil discourse as well as government that works in the best interests of the country as a whole. 
  • A media that informs citizens in a fair and responsible way.



The National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) was established in May of 2011 after the tragic Tucson shooting that killed six people and wounded thirteen others including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. All were participating in a “Congress on Your Corner” event, a fundamental act of democracy.

In response to the tragedy, the Tucson community came together to create NICD, a non-partisan organization based at the University of Arizona that would promote healthy and civil political debate. NICD is devoted to the same principles that motivated Congresswoman Giffords: that people with different values and political preferences can discuss their differences in a civil and productive manner. Ironically, just days before the shooting Representative Giffords had begun discussions about the possibility of setting up a center to study how to improve the quality of civil conversation. NICD is proud to be leading this work. 


Gabrielle Giffords
Former Member of Congress, Arizona

Gabrielle Giffords is a native of Tucson, Arizona and represented Arizona’s 8th Congressional District from 2007 - 2012. She is the third woman in Arizona’s history to be elected to the U.S. Congress and the youngest woman elected to the Arizona State Senate. As a Member of the House she participated in the Blue Dog Democrat Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition. Giffords won in 2006 against Republican Randy Graf. In 2008, she won reelection against Republican Tim Bee, a childhood classmate and former colleague from the Arizona State Senate. In 2010, she once again won reelection against Republican and Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly.

While in Congress Giffords voted in favor of raising the minimum wage, endorsing the 9/11 Commission recommendations, new rules for the House of Representative targeting ethical issues, the repeal of $14 billion in subsidies to big oil reserves and for subsidies for renewable energy. She has also worked tirelessly for border control and veterans' affairs. 

Giffords was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 2001-2003 and the Arizona Senate from 2003-2005. Prior to time as a Congresswoman, Giffords worked as an associate for regional economic development at Price Waterhouse in New York City and as CEO of El Campo Tire Warehouses, a local automotive chain owned by her father.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Latin American History from Scripps College in 1993. Giffords then spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Chihuahua, Mexico. She has a Master’s degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University in 1996. She is married to U.S. Navy Captain and NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. 

Giffords and 18 others were victims of a shooting on January 8, 2011 during a 'Congress on Your Corner' open meeting in Tucson. She continues to make great progress in her recovery with help from friends, family and supporters. She resigned from the U.S. Congress on January 25, 2012.