From left: Former WSB-TV news anchor John Pruitt moderates a panel discussion with Lee Rhyant, the retired vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, former Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and Teya Ryan, the president and CEO at Georgia Public Broadcasting. The panel was held by Leadership Sandy Springs on Feb. 22 at Cox Enterprises. (Evelyn Andrews)

Leadership Sandy Springs brought together a group of leaders from different industries to discuss the state of civil discourse in a turbulent time at its Feb. 22 “Live Learn Lead” fourth annual dinner.

A panel that included former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Teya Ryan, the president and CEO at Georgia Public Broadcasting, and Lee Rhyant, the retired vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, was moderated by former WSB-TV news anchor John Pruitt.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul introduced the panel and said it is important for people to learn how to communicate again without disregarding or degrading others’ opinions.

“It’s very vital and very important that we have the ability to talk to each other. That doesn’t mean we have to agree,” he said. “Our willingness and ability to tolerate dissenting opinion” has deteriorated, he said.

President Trump’s controversial comments may have done a service by prompting others to discuss the state of civil discourse, Paul said.

“President Trump, whether you like him or not, maybe has done something that has forced groups like this to begin to think about, ‘How we do treat each other?’” he said.

About 200 people attended the event, which was held at the Cox Enterprises headquarters on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road.

Ryan argued the media has made people’s views more polarized, and being “bombarded” with different types of media has made it worse.

Ryan cautioned that the mass media is making more people have extreme views by using algorithms and headline testing to target groups.

“It’s incredibly alerting,” she said.

Chambliss said politics are following a similar route by using voter and demographic graphic to target groups.

Rhyant argued that the social media may actually be a positive force by giving an opportunity for groups to work together to bring about positive change.

“I think we could be wrong. We could missing a wonderful change that is coming,” Rhyant said.

Chambliss said Congress has become much more polarized and less willing to negotiate since he was elected in 1995. The best ideas come from negotiating and cooperating with the other side, but the amount of politicians on the extreme ends of the spectrum have made that less likely to happen, he said.

“You have to have both sides really coming together, and you just don’t see that,” he said. “Neither party has a patent on good ideas.”