LWV program supports democracy's preservation

Community members discussed 10 habits of good citizens on Presidents Day 2024. [photo: Jack Valancy]

On Feb. 19, Presidents Day, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland (CH-UH LWV), in partnership with Heights Libraries, presented a free showing and discussion of the PBS video “A Citizen’s Guide to Preserving Democracy.”

The video presented a discussion between politician and author Richard Haass, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and PBS correspondent Hari Sreenivasan, illustrated by examples of how Americans are working to preserve democracy, such as the Great Lakes Civility Project.

In his book The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens, Haass identified the following: 1) Remain civil, 2) Be informed, 3) Value norms, 4) Get involved, 5) Stay open to compromise, 6) Teach civics, 7) Promote the common good, 8) Reject violence, 9) Support public service, and 10) Put country first.

In her welcoming remarks, Wendy Deuring, chair of CH-UH LWV, said, “It is time now for we, the people, to re-engage with our system of democracy, with our fellow citizens, and to reclaim our system of government—by voting, by paying attention to our local and state governments, and by engaging with our fellow citizens and elected representatives.”

Following the video, CH-UH LWV members facilitated breakout group discussions. Each group added post-it notes to flip charts, citing habits they believe are practiced or are underused and need developing, including:

  • Remain civil: Participants were positive about programs teaching students to be mediators; yet, remaining civil is elusive.
  • Stay open to compromise and put country first: The political cost of compromise is high, and people may put party affiliation ahead of country first.
  • Teach civics: Because “democracy is fragile,” people need to “understand the importance of voting and to value the norm of voting.”
  • Value norms: This is difficult when norms don’t reflect current values and laws change more slowly than social norms. Voter education, access to public meetings, and accuracy in reporting are essential.
  • Reject violence: Attendees pointed out the importance of teaching anti-violent methods and practicing active non-violence. It is “too easy to demonize the ‘other’ if you do not actually meet/know each other.”
  • Be informed: People must learn to distinguish between fact and opinion. Students must be taught how to process and analyze resources, identify logical fallacies, and know the First Amendment’s limits.
  • Get involved: “People have no time for community actions,” and “burnout leads to disengagement,” contrasted with people taking informed interest and getting involved in activities such as food banks, community agencies, lobbying, and LWV involvement.
  • Promote the common good: Library resources and public education promote the common good; yet, “in an economy where parents need to work a second job, they can’t work on societal issues because they are barely getting by.”

Participants, all actively committed to democracy, recognized the habits were interrelated building blocks. For example, remaining civil in political discussions also involves being able to compromise and to put country first.

A Citizen’s Guide to Preserving Democracy can be can be viewed online at https://video.ideastream.org/show/a-citizens-guide-to-preserving-democracy/.

For those interested in hosting a viewing, CH-UH LWV members are available to assist or help with organization. Contact heights@lwvgreatercleveland.org for information.

Rose Fairman and Elizabeth Tracy

Rose Fairman and Elizabeth Tracy are co-chairs, voter services, for CH-UH LWV.

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Volume 17, Issue 4, Posted 9:55 AM, 03.22.2024