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Op-Eds About Edwards Proposal for Citizen Congresses

This initiative was part of the “Democracy Communications Network,” a 2007-2009 project that encouraged leaders in deliberative democracy to periodically write op-eds and blog posts as part of larger, collaborative media campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of quality public engagement.  Use the “Democracy Communications Network” tag to see the articles written in association with this project.

On Saturday, October 13th, Senator and Presidential Candidate John Edwards gave a speech in Keene, New Hampshire that could have a major impact on our field. In his speech, he called for the creation of “Citizen Congresses” that would regularly convene one million Americans in national deliberations on critical policy issues. These congresses are part of his One Democracy Initiative, which references AmericaSpeaks’ and Study Circles’ work, as well as Deliberation Day and the newly-formed November 5th Coalition. Here is an excerpt from the speech:

“I believe in the wisdom of the American people, and I think the more power they have in our democracy, the better our country will be. That’s why every two years, I will ask one million citizens to come together to tackle our toughest issues in local forums across the nation. These Citizen Congresses will combine old-fashioned town halls with 21st century technology. They will give regular Americans a chance to speak to each other, and to their elected officials in Washington, without the filters of interest groups and the media. Like so much of what Washington needs, this idea of grassroots democracy is already working out in the real world, in towns just like this one.”

AmericaSpeaks’ Joe Goldman was contacted weeks earlier by the Edwards campaign about this, and Joe gave me (NCDD’s Sandy Heierbacher) and a number of other leaders in the field a heads-up on the speech. Joe encouraged us to submit letters to the editors of our local papers, and provided some helpful background information, ideas and tips to help us get started. The purpose of the op-eds is not to support Edwards or his specific public engagement plan, but to raise awareness of the importance of public engagement and the fact that it is already happening across the country – and to encourage the other candidates to go beyond rhetoric and propose their own concrete solutions for bringing the public back into politics.

I contacted some NCDD members who I felt would be able to quickly write op-eds, and I’m collecting their op-eds and those of others Joe contacted so we can display and/or link to them in one place. I also encouraged NCDDers in general to consider submitting op-eds to their local papers.

This is a great opportunity for people in the D&D community to join forces to raise awareness about the need to for the public to have a greater voice in the governance process. As a community, we need to figure out how to respond quickly and collectively when things happen that can raise awareness of D&D – whether they be crises, conflicts or high-level PR opportunities like this one. Perhaps this effort can set a precedent for us to accomplish this. Here is what we have so far…

(Important: click on the Democracy Communications Network tag to find these and other op-eds, blog posts, etc. written on this topic.)


  • An op-ed by Harris Sokoloff in the Philadelphia Daily News
  • An op-ed submitted by Kim Pearce for the San Francisco Chronicle
  • An op-ed by NCDD’s Sandy Heierbacher in the Harrisburg, PA Patriot News
  • An op-ed by Barnett Pearce for the San Jose Mercury News
  • An op-ed by John Gastil for the Seattle Times
  • An op-ed by Peter Muhlberger for the Dallas Morning News
  • An op-ed by Archon Fung in the Boston Globe
  • An op-ed by Doug Crocker for the Orange County Register
  • An op-ed by Steve Pyser in the Philadelphia Inquirer
  • An op-ed by Phil Neisser for the Watertown Daily Times
  • An op-ed by Mica Stark in the Manchester, NH Union Leader
  • An op-ed by Kathryn Liss for the Asheville (Oregon) Citizen Times
  • An op-ed by Lisa Blomgren Bingham in the Indianapolis Star
  • An op-ed by Tina Nabatchi in the (Syracuse, NY) Post Standard

Blog Posts, etc.

Tips and Templates

And for those of you interesting in writing letters to your editors, here are some helpful documents (from AmericaSpeaks’ Joe Goldman and the Kettering Foundation’s David Mathews)…

  More Resources  

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