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Toward a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity: A Guide for Building Stronger Communities Through Public Dialogue

The 66-page discussion guide, Toward a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity: A Guide for Building Stronger Communities Through Public Dialogue (1997). was created by Everyday Democracy. The guide provides details to organize a four-session dialogue program to examine ideas about unity, diversity and pluralism, and how they affect us as members of our communities and our country.

Below is an excerpt from the guide, which can be downloaded in full from Everyday Democracy’s site here. The guide is available in Spanish here.

From the guide…

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Moving toward “a more perfect union” has been one of our principal ideals since the founding of our nation. And it is an ideal that has persisted. In our homes, our schools, and our media, the ideal of the union has been heralded, studied, passed down, and revered. The struggle to fulfill this ideal has led both to inspiring strides and to painful strains. Throughout our history, there have been times of great questioning about what the ideal means and how to achieve it.

This is a time of great questioning. There is a lot of talk about the United States becoming more diverse, and about what that means for our country. At the same time that we are focusing more attention on racial and ethnic diversity, we are hearing more and more about other kids of “group identities” such as religion, ideology, gender, and sexual orientation.

Tensions about the meaning of this diversity become apparent as soon as we talk with each other about the state of our union. Sometimes it seems we are surrounded by a war of words. Diversity. Unity. Patriotism. Pluralism. Races. Ethnicity. Group Identity. Political correctness. Multiculturalism. Culture wars. Words tap deep feelings, and they can mean very different things to different people. Even the word “American” can bring out strong conflicting feelings between strangers, neighbors, and family members.

But the conflicts we face are about more than words. The tensions that come out in our language reflect varied concerns and ideas about where we should go as a country. These pressures are visible in many of our most complex public issues, such as education, taxes, welfare, and immigration. In many communities, these tensions are evident in daily life – whether in open  conflict among groups, in in tensions and misperceptions that simmer just beneath the surface. Caught in these real-life complexities and divisions, some people are even questioning our ability to live together.

But this is also a time of hope and community building, especially at the local level. A growing number of leaders are exploring ways to bring people together across differences, to work through issues of diversity. In the process, people are finding that they have common concerns, and that they can work together to address them – even on the very issues that are related to their differences.

It is the conviction of these leaders that, in a democracy, the only successful resolution of these questions and tensions is one that every person actively takes part in. “We the people” can and must find ways to move toward a more perfect union in an age of diversity. Many community leaders, from every sector and background, believe that this is a critical time to consider what we hold in common, what keeps us apart, and how we can work together to build a stronger, better place for all of us.

That conviction is the premise of this guide. Its purpose is to help people have the honest, productive, democratic conversations that are at the heart of beginning to live and work together well.

Read the full guide on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: www.everyday-democracy.org/resources/toward-more-perfect-union-age-diversity-guide-building-stronger-communities-through-public

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