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African Talking Stick used in Den Meetings now in Congress

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Sen. Collins says she used a 'secret weapon' in shutdown negotiations

WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she used a "secret weapon" to help end the government shutdown.

“I quickly realized that I needed a way to control the debate because senators can be quite loquacious and they always want to be the first to speak. There's a lot of crosstalk and I wanted to make sure that everybody's voice was heard. So Sen. Heidi Heitkamp a few years ago gave me an African Talking Stick that is used by a tribe that is in Kenya and in the Sudan region. And it is used by the tribe to control the debate when they are in meeting and I found that it worked very well.” ...

I would hand the stick to whoever was seeking recognition and until that person was finished, no one could interrupt him or her. And then I would take the stick and pass it on to the next person," Collins said. "Occasionally it was tossed to the next person, but it worked amazingly well to ensure that everyone had a chance to be heard.”

So what works for Cub Scout den meetings is now being used in Congress? :D 

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7354?$product225x225$Talking Feather Kit available from Scoutstuff $7.95.

Kit includes 12" dowel, fur, feather, sinew, beads, suede lace, and instructions. As the talking feather is passed around, only the person holding it is allowed to speak.



Edited by RememberSchiff
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That article does not mention that at one point in the meeting, one of the Senators "forcefully delivered" (I believe that means "threw") the stick to (or "at"?) another Senator and the stick hit a shelf in Senator Collins' office and broke one of the knick knacks on the shelf.  Sen. Collins then put the stick away and they switched to using a small rubber ball.  This is mentioned here:


Other than that it apparently worked reasonably well.

Edited by NJCubScouter
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On 1/24/2018 at 8:23 AM, Stosh said:

And if everyone knew and used Robert's Rules of Order, there would be no need for any stick.

Actually the Senate uses its own rules, which are largely the same as Robert's Rules but with some important differences, most notably (at least in the past couple of weeks) the rules that allow for filibusters on legislation.  Robert's Rules limits speeches to two (per day, if it's a multi-day meeting) per motion per member and the speeches are limited to 10 minutes each, so even if someone was trying to delay a vote, eventually everybody's right to speak would be exhausted and the vote would be taken automatically.  Unlike in the Senate where the length of speeches is not limited and it takes 60 votes to end debate.

As for the using the stick rather than the rules, this was an unofficial meeting of about 20+ Senators in one of their offices. (They must have large offices.)  So the rules would not apply unless they wanted them to, but I think they were trying to keep this meeting somewhat informal and "light" which was tough to do in the super-tense atmosphere of a government shutdown.  I also think the stick was kind of a "gimmick" to remind the Senators that they should speak one at a time rather than trying to talk (or shout) over each other.

And the meeting did result in a deal, so maybe in future situations like that they also will use a stick, though they need to remember to get all breakable items off the shelves first.

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