We can’t take democracy for granted.

It may feel a bit obvious, but it’s worth restating why democracy is an idea worth defending. Democracy, our system and culture of self-government, is supposed to give us each the opportunity to shape our society. It is vital to delivering on the promise of America. When it works, democracy is the strongest and most morally legitimate way to ensure liberty and justice for all.

The promise of American democracy is just that: a promise, a leap of faith. Those of us who believe in democracy and believe it is still possible, we have the burden of proving it. Hard as it is, though, delivering on this promise is purposeful work. It is the truest definition of the pursuit of happiness.

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A strong democracy requires strong citizens.

Strong democracies don’t trickle down from strong leaders; they emerge from the choices and acts of strong people — willing participants. We each are citizen gardeners, tending to this living, ever-adapting ecosystem that requires care, participation, cultivation, and adaptation season after season. And democracy is not a machine, where you flip a switch and it will hum along soundly on its own. So sitting back is not an option if we want the American experiment to work for all of us.

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Culture determines whether democracy thrives.

Civic culture is made up of the norms, habits, and ways of being together that shape our society. It impacts the way we live, what we believe is possible, and what we can achieve together as a nation.

Things like passing a law or voting a candidate into office are the tangible outcomes we see in the civic process — and are very important! But what is it that builds momentum for these tangible actions to occur? Civic culture. What is it that keeps people engaged long after Election Day? Civic culture. What is it that helps us keep the health of our local communities top of mind? Civic culture. How do we form the habits and beliefs that make living like a powerful, responsible citizen feel like a normal thing to do? Civic culture. Culture determines whether our democracy thrives — whether we thrive.

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We need each other.

Our nation’s motto isn’t just, “pluribus” — many. It’s “E pluribus unum” — out of many, one. We are intimately connected. We are all better off when we’re all better off. The relationships we build show us the importance of shared health and prosperity. A more vibrant and networked civic culture is what enables us to work together and ultimately solve our problems.

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