Americanism & Our Civic Ritual of Freedom
The four questions
What was the motivation for establishing the United States of America?
What was the state of affairs that existed at the time of the constitution convention?
What were the delegates who congregated in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 thinking?
Can their deliberation inform us today as we face the challenges of the 21st century?
We will explore the impact of the constitution on our political ecosystem. How did the constitution shape our political ecosystem? Using the complexity lens, we put the political system under the microscope.
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Americanism & Our Civic Ritual of Freedom
Americanism & Our Civic Ritual of Freedom aspect of the James Madison Project builds on George Washington’s farewell address—the letter he wrote to the American people in 1796 after deciding not to run for a third presidential term. The goal is to establish national rituals that affirm the social contract established and fought for by prior generations of Americans. The initiative includes the Washington Farewell Project, which suggests a public reading and discussion of Washington’s Farewell Address, as a Timely Message for the People of the United States. Disunion in the union and the road to reunion
Having served as president for the first eight years of the young nation, George Washington’s concern centered on the safety of the Constitution and survivability of the eight-year-old United States. With the aid of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Washington composed a “Farewell Address”, his political testament “to the People of the United States”, designed to inspire and guide future generations as well to point to potential threats to the republic. Unfortunately, the threats to our nation and the counsel provided by the founding fathers has not been heeded by these same political representatives. Now, 220 years into our great experiment in self-government, our nation politically divided, we must pay attention to Washington’s forward-thinking counsel. At this political point of the journey of the American people, it is important to listen to the words of these remarkable founders and reclaim a government of, by and for the people. (Perhaps organize a yearly reading of the Farewell Address by Citizens.
Prior generations of Americans recognized the powerful counsel of our first president at another time of great peril. In 1862, citizen’s recognizing the relevance of Washington’s warning about the fatal tendencies in the republican government. With the Constitution endangered by civil war, citizens of Philadelphia petitioned Congress that “the Farewell Address of Washington be read aloud on the morning of that day (Washington’s Birthday)in one or the other of the Houses of Congress.” Both houses agreed and assembled in the House of Representatives’ chamber on February 22, 1862. Washington’s Farewell Address has been read yearly by members of congress ever since.
Many religions have established rituals that sustain them from generation to generation. As a central part of the ritual, we can reaffirm Washington’s call for recognizing the importance of being Americans regardless of the various, multiple identities we hold important that define and energize us. The people of Philadelphia in particular can initiate a civic ritual that builds on Washington’s counsel and celebrates our shared values and develops strategies that promote cohesion rather than division. The ritual, using a shared document, that is reflective of the “identity of the users” provides an opportunity for civic reflection and strengthen ties among individuals, families, communities, and nations. The ritual allows for patriotic reflection and sharing of hope allowing for a more intimate sharing of common bonds.
Creating a shared vision of the Union
Building on existing material associated with the vision of the United States, (our better angels) we will use digital engagement to develop a document that serves as an organizing activity that explores and celebrates Americanism based on Washington’s Farewell Address. The document is crowdsourced, collecting the national documents and other artifacts of the American people.
We can share and reflect on our hallowed civic texts: Our songs and poems of freedom, Our unfinished agenda, documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King and others. The evolving document will provide a safe container for communications and utilize a format that includes narrative, strategies, tools, and space for innovation and crowdsourcing to promote empathy, knowledge, and dialogue that celebrates different opinions and beliefs.
Establishing national rituals
Rituals can help affirm the social contract established and fought for by prior generations of Americans. Many religions have established rituals that sustain them from generation to generation. (The Passover Seder) as a framework for a national ritual. As a central part of the ritual, we can reaffirm Washington’s call for recognizing the importance of being Americans regardless of the various, multiple identities we hold important that define and energize us. The people of Philadelphia can initiate a civic ritual that builds on Washington’s counsel and celebrates our shared values and develops strategies that promote cohesion rather than division. The ritual, using a shared document, that is reflective of the “identity of the users” provides an opportunity for civic reflection and strengthen ties among individuals, families, communities, and nations. The ritual allows for patriotic reflection and sharing of hope allowing for a more intimate sharing of common bonds.
Setting tasks and “Home Work”
Citizens across the nation can join together to discuss strategies to solve problems impacting the entire nation, work to unite across regions and ideologies. Using a framework and format that promotes communication and dialogue, aided by digital technology, moderated by a representative nonpartisan organizing body, citizens can educate ourselves to counter the excitation of passions by politicians and other representatives of factions, hold political parties accountable not only during election time by engage with them utilizing tools of active citizenship, take to the streets to petition the government when it doesn’t represent us. This process can contribute to a better understanding of the constitutional framework that is central to our body politic/ civil society. Perhaps we can focus on a social challenge for which there is wide, bipartisan agreement and work to most effectively confront it. One such challenge is the opioid epidemic ravaging the country.
Monitoring and assessing the outcomes
Current political decision making and government performance suffer from information asymmetry that marginalizes the citizen making it difficult to assess the function. To meaningfully participate in our government, It is crucial for decision making to have relevant, accessible, reliable and timely information. Additionally, the “performance” of our government is rarely discussed in meaningful ways that can enhance public engagement. What is needed is a formalized way to “track” the performance of the government along with multiple relevant indicators. For example, currently, the focus is on measuring GDP, an indicator of growth that doesn’t reflect the core function of government to enhance citizen well being. The Health of the Nation Initiative provides ongoing data and information that is relevant to the challenges facing our nation and the process and resources addressing them. We provide information where available and to seek to create a political process to develop the needed data sources for public use. Taken together, the selected indicators reflect the overall health of the nation and the efficiency and efficacy of our political system. The data allows us to assess how we are doing and what we need to do to achieve excellent outcomes. Additionally, the initiative will explore and address the challenges of transparency, accountability, and public reporting.
Build on the Senate’s reading of the Farewell Address. Utilize the Farewell Address as a focus for age and grade-appropriate educational opportunities. The content will be developed through crowdsourcing.
Schools and public institutions: Along with public reading select institutions will be provided with multi-media lesson plans/ curricula. (Multi-year process)
Family-oriented ceremony at home (Seder) Freedom's Feast is an interactive civics program that uses major holidays in our American calendar to raise the next generation of citizens.
Congressional reading: Make a framework for congressional discussion.
Media outlets: The Atlantic, breaking down the speech and addressing each section to assess where we are and what can be done.
Citizen organizations (Neighborhoods) : Discuss strategies to improve citizen participation in non politicized manner.