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Eric Liu.
Source: Ashoka

Civic faith and what’s ahead for American democracy

This article originally appeared on Medium

Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, these last 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 this is true, and yet it’s not beyond repair. 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.

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:

Eric Liu

Ashoka Fellow since Feb 2020

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Ashoka insight

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 all walks of life develop a “fluency in power” and a new kind of civic character.
 

“Civic love” is essential: If people truly love their country, they will need to listen to each other differently — and learn 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 they might help to change it? It starts with nurturing curiosity across a lifespan, and lands on the central question of civic power.