This program focuses on the challenge of sustaining strong citizenship in America and coherent national identity in an age of demographic flux and severe inequality.
We are living through a period of radical concentration of wealth and opportunity in the United States. This severe inequality undermines democracy and erodes the spirit of common cause, mutual responsibility, and reciprocity vital to a republic. In a centrifugal time when this country has never been more diverse and polarized and when its role in the world is rapidly shifting, the question of what it means to be American – and how we create a sustainable story of "us" – is of prime consequence.
The program encompasses a range of cross-partisan activity, from workshops and public forums to leadership convenings and seminar-style discussions. Across our forms of public engagement, we focus on three dimensions of citizenship: values, systems, and skills. The values segment focuses on articulating (and updating) an ethical and creedal framework for American civic identity. The systems segment includes policy proposals, cultural initiatives, and multi-sector collaborations to build social cohesion. The skills segment teaches leaders to construct coalitions and a sense of shared fate across increasingly rigid class and race divides.
What Every American Should Know
In 1987, E.D. Hirsch sparked a national debate with his book Cultural Literacy, claiming that there is a foundation of common knowledge every American should know — and codifying it in a list of 5,000 facts and cultural references. Hirsch’s list was attacked, celebrated, and much discussed. Today, amidst giant demographic and social shifts, the United States needs such common knowledge more than ever. But a 21st century sense of cultural literacy has to be radically more diverse and inclusive. And it needs to come not from one person but from all of us. So, we ask: What do you think Americans should know to be civically and culturally literate?
The Pluribus Project
A pervasive cultural narrative tells Americans it is pointless to get involved in political and civic activity because our voices just don’t matter. The Pluribus Project seeks to combat this by using innovative strategies for telling real stories of people coming together to effect change. By cultivating a new narrative of civic empowerment, we will inspire greater participation in political life.
This program is directed by Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University, which works across the political spectrum to foster a culture of powerful citizenship. Liu served as a White House speechwriter and later as deputy domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. His books include The Gardens of Democracy, The True Patriot, and A Chinaman's Chance. Liu lives in Seattle and is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for CNN.com.