Civic faith and what’s ahead for American democracy

Ashoka Fellow Eric Liu on fostering a culture of powerful citizenship



Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, the last few years have shown American democracy to be more fragile than many imagined — and trust in institutions and fellow citizens is badly frayed.

Eric Liu, co-founder of Seattle-based Citizen University, says all this is true, and yet repair is possible. America is in fact in the process of becoming — and regardless of who the leading elected officials are, what comes next is up to citizens, like you and me.

Ashoka’s Michael Zakaras spoke with Eric this week. If you’re looking to re-ground in the principles and practice of democracy — a better democracy — you may like to watch the full conversation. Here are some highlights:

Why character is collective

A former deputy domestic policy advisor and speechwriter for President Clinton, Eric started Citizen University to work “upstream” of politics — on culture. How? By helping people from all walks of life develop a “fluency in power” and a new kind of civic character.

Why “civic love” is essential

Truly loving the possibility of America means committing to listen to fellow citizens differently — learning to love and argue better, Eric says. Here he shares why civic love is both hard and necessary.

Specific ideas for strengthening democracy

In a “grown up” society, citizenship can’t just be a bundle of rights — it’s equally a bundle of responsibilities. There are joyful ways to go about civic responsibilities, and specific ideas to explore — a year of national service, plus working on projects together as a means to bridge divides. Eric shares recommendations from the Commission on Our Common Purpose:

How to cultivate curiosity (whether you’re 4 or 84)

How might parents guide their children’s curiosity about why the world is the way it is…and how might they help to change it? It starts with nurturing curiosity across the lifespan, and lands on the central question of civic power. Here’s Eric:

Explore more

You can find Eric on Twitter at @ericpliu and follow Citizen University at @CitizenUniv. Be sure to explore CU’s nation-wide Civic Saturdays, and consider/apply for catalyst opportunities, whether you are a young person or an adult. Finally, Eric is an author as well as social entrepreneur; his two most recent books are: Become America: Civic sermons on love, responsibility and democracy and You’re more powerful than you think: a citizen’s guide to making change.

Watch the full video:

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