We are coming off an incredible celebration: our first ever Citizen University Homecoming! Over 80 alumni across our programs came together in Seattle to reconnect — and for many of them, to be together in person for the very first time.
This gathering helped us mark Citizen University’s 10 year anniversary as an organization. Homecoming was a beautiful testament to the decade of work by this community of civic catalysts. In every corner of the country, these dedicated citizens are building shared power, activating a spirit of responsibility-taking, and strengthening a culture of participation.
Our nation has been through a lot in the past 10 years — from surges of democratic participation, to disheartening and polarizing and isolating times. Through it all, the civic catalysts in our CU network and beyond have been mending the social fabric, building new bonds of trust and affection, and fostering a renewed sense of citizenship in their communities. This gives us a tremendous amount of hope.
Whether you are new to CU or have been riding with us from the start… thank you.
Thank you for bringing curiosity and open-heartedness to imagining the kind of communities and democracy that are possible. For bringing dedication and drive in creating gatherings and networks that invite and activate others. For believing that a stronger civic culture — our way of living and creating together as Americans — is possible, even in the face of cynicism and apathy.
If this CU Homecoming gathering reaffirmed one thing for us, it’s this: we need each other.
We need each other to recharge and recommit, to create and collaborate, and to gear up for the next year — and the next decade — ahead. 2024 will ask each of us to live into our fullest, most dedicated, responsible, and powerful sense of citizenship as we navigate what’s sure to be a tumultuous civic year. We’re doubling down on supporting this community and circulating the ideas, skills, power, and civic spirit to help communities and democracy rise.
Over the next month, we’ll be shining a light on the past 10 years to help us gear up for the next. We’re (digitally) dusting off old photos to recall the memories and lessons and friends that we’ve gained throughout our journey, and sharing them on social media. Here are two blasts from the past, with more to come over the next few weeks. Visit our social channels to see more!
The Citizen University Conference
Who remembers the original Citizen University? Before we were running several programs year-round, our co-founders, Eric Liu and Jená Cane, had been part of a team organizing an annual gathering, which initially focused on the art of mentoring. A few years in, they realized that the concept of citizenship was central to the health of our relationships, society, and democracy.
So in 2012, the conference took the name “Citizen University.” This convening brought together a wide range of national civic innovators and everyday citizens for a few days of deep learning, spirited conversation, and strengthening of civic commitments. Hundreds gathered at the Seattle Center to circulate ideas, deepen their own sense of civic power, and hear from civic leaders, from catalytic leaders like Alicia Garza, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Ai-jen Poo — to creators and artists and playwrights and poets like Claudia Rankine and Alice Waters.
Joy of Voting
In 2016, our team launched a project called the Joy of Voting, with support from the Knight Foundation. We invited artists, activists, designers, and educators around the nation to come up with projects that fostered a local culture of voting.
In Miami, FL that meant neighborhood block parties with DJs for people standing in line at early voting locations. In Akron, OH it meant local actors performing political plays in the bed of a pickup truck that went from neighborhood to neighborhood. In Philadelphia, PA it was a festival of music and food from around the world to celebrate the first vote of newly naturalized citizens. And in Wichita, KS sounded like creating mixtapes in the North End and live graffiti-art to get out the vote. This project revived a sense of civic faith and commitment through play and imagination — and these moments of joy continue today!
Don’t miss other memories from the past we’ll share on social media!
We are celebrating #10YearsOfCU with these photos from the archives. What is your favorite memory with Citizen University?
Share a post or a picture with a reflection with something you’ve learned, an experience you had, or a hope for the future. Be sure to tag @citizenuniversity and use the hashtag, #10YearsOfCU.