February 18, 2021 Kluge Prize Honoree Danielle Allen Launches Campaign for Civic Strength

Our Common Purpose: A Campaign for Civic Strength Hosts Events Exploring Civic Media, Political Institutions and Founding Principles

Press Contact: Brett Zongker, (202) 707-1639, bzongker@loc.gov
Public Contact: Andrew Breiner, abreiner@loc.gov
Website: John W. Kluge Center

Our Common Purpose will feature events in March, April and May. Poster Design by Tyler Comrie and Rodrigo Corral.

A series of new events exploring ideas and actions to strengthen America’s democracy will debut in March, April and May with the launch of Our Common Purpose: A Campaign for Civic Strength at the Library of Congress. The initiative is created and hosted by Danielle Allen, who was awarded the 2020 John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity.

This new campaign will feature public events hosted virtually on the Library's Facebook page and its YouTube site, along with workshops for K-12 educators to help educators across the country experiment and create new ways of making civic education come to life.

“We all know that this is a critical and urgent moment in our nation’s history,” Allen said. “We have faced crises as a nation before. We can continue to watch and worry and tweet at each other – or we can emerge stronger and more resilient by taking real action now to save our constitutional democracy.”

The first conversation from Our Common Purpose in March will highlight civic media as a promising counterpoint to the often overwhelming universe of social media. The second event in April will explore how refinements to voting procedures have the potential to increase the responsiveness of elected officials. The third event in May will look to history and search for ways to engage with the nation’s founding documents. 

Our Common Purpose will feature the following topics and speakers:

Using Civic Media to Build a Better Society
March 11, 2021 at 1 p.m. ET
Panelists will explore the role of information in democratic society, addressing the challenges citizens face in consuming the deluge of materials available in the digital age and in identifying trustworthy sources of information. They will consider the potential of civic media to inform and educate within the context of the broader social media ecosystem, where the incentives are to spread information regardless of its truth or value. Panelists will consider what civic media looks like, and how it can it compete with social media.

Moderator: Danielle Allen
Panelists:

  • Talia Stroud (University of Texas) is a nationally-renowned expert on examining commercially viable and democratically beneficial ways of improving media.
  • Brendesha Tynes (University of Southern California) is a leader in the study of how youth experience digital media and how these early experiences are associated with their academic and emotional development. She is also interested in equity issues as they relate to digital literacy.
  • Richard Young is the founder of CivicLex, a non-profit that is using technology, media, and social practice to build a more civically engaged Lexington, Kentucky. CivicLex aims to build stronger relationships between citizens and those who serve them.

How Political Institutions Shape Outcomes and How We Might Reform Them
April 15, 2021 at 1 p.m. ET
In the U.S., political institutions reflect choices and compromises about how we balance between majority and minority interests. Panelists will look at the way different systems of electoral decision-making in a democracy can, by themselves, lead to very different outcomes, and what can be done to reform them in ways that result in more responsive and deliberative legislative bodies.  

Moderator: Danielle Allen
Panelists:

  • Lee Drutman (New America Foundation) is a thought leader and prolific author on reforming political parties, electoral systems and Congress.
  • Katie Fahey (Of The People) leads an organization dedicated to pursuing reforms to empower individuals in the political system.
  • Cara McCormick (National Association of Non-partisan Reformers) is an activist and leader of organizations dedicated to electoral reforms at all levels, from the local to the presidential.

Finding a Shared Historical Narrative
May 13, 2021 at 1 p.m. ET

Speakers will discuss the changing interpretations of the nation’s founding documents and the principles they were founded upon. They will also explore the tension between celebrating what is good about the US and its history, while addressing the exploitation and inequality that are also part of the American legacy.

Additional details on speakers will be announced on the Kluge Center’s blog. Subscribe here for updates.

The Library of Congress, together with Allen, will host workshops for K-12 educators from around the country on the topics covered in the three public events. The goal of the workshops is to provide teaching strategies and resources that will encourage young people to engage in civic life. The Library is working with the Civics Renewal Network to select teachers from all over the country. The workshops, held March through May 2021, will be recorded and made available this summer through the Teachers Page on the Library of Congress website at loc.gov/teachers.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences is supporting Our Common Purpose and released a report, co-edited by Allen, on “Reinventing Democracy for the 21st Century.”

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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PR 21-009
2021-02-18
ISSN 0731-3527