It may feel a bit obvious, but it’s worth restating why democracy is an idea worth defending. Democracy, our system of self government, is the idea that we each have an opportunity to shape our shared society. This 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. In theory, when everyone participates and no one is subordinated or dominated as a matter of status, the system is adaptive, resilient, and just. If everyone can participate as civic equals there are no second-class citizens. The best case for democracy is that it makes justice for all possible — but we know we have a ways to go before that’s fully a reality.
Democracy is the tool we have for ensuring all Americans can find prosperity. When things are going well, democracy is what helps us keep things on track. And when they’re not, it gives us the tools — and the power — to turn things around. When we need to forge new paths ahead and dream up new solutions, democracy gives us the tools to make our imagination come to fruition. In theory, through democracy we the people have power to shape our circumstances.
Democracy gives us the tools to make our imagination come to fruition.
In a country with many different opinions, democracy helps us have productive arguments, test out solutions, and decentralize power. It’s the way we feel included, have a voice, and take ownership. And inclusive societies are more resilient, more creative, and more adaptive to change.
And yet democracy isn’t a given, it’s an act of faith. The promise of American democracy is just that: a promise, a leap of faith. Hope in the unseen. Those of us who believe in democracy and believe it is still possible, we have the burden of proving it. But remember, it is no burden at all to be in a community where you are seen as fully human, where you have a say in the things that affect you, where you don’t need to be connected to be respected. That is called a blessing, and it is available to all who believe.
The promise of American democracy is just that: a promise, a leap of faith.
We have yet to see our democracy live up to its full potential. Hard as it is, though, delivering on this promise is purposeful work. It is the truest definition of the pursuit of happiness. Every day, we’re seeing Americans using the very tools of democracy itself to help get us closer to that promise. Here at Citizen University, we’ve got our sights set on a mass, multi-racial democracy that works.