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April 2021 Meeting: A Civic Renaissance

Updated: Apr 7

At our April 6, 2021 meeting we enjoyed an engaging presentation by Dr. Harry Boyte and Marie-Louise Ström from the Institute for Public Life and Work on the role of citizens in our democracy. In a time of growing polarization and mounting problems that the government alone cannot solve, this presentation began with the ”We the People” idea from the Preamble to the Constitution, which defines our democracy as the work of the people. We learned about the way the idea was brought to life on an enormous scale in the hundreds of grassroots citizenship schools of the civil rights movement. In them, people combined fighting for the right to vote with learning skills that equipped citizens to work on many other problems. We heard a powerful contemporary story of “democracy schools” in Burundi, one of the world’s poorest societies, where everyday citizens claimed “safety as everybody’s business” and learned to work with police as partners. Finally, looking at the roots of the League of Women Voters in diverse movements for civic awakening in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we heard the proposition that LWV is ideally positioned now for leadership in a grassroots citizenship education movement that equips citizens to be effective agents of change and work across differences to address our common challenges.