America was built through the exercise of free speech and the protection of individual rights to assure a representative democracy. We hold our First Amendment rights sacred. And yet, the strident tenor of contemporary American discourse is threatening our cherished democracy. Acrimonious language by elected officials and their surrogates impairs the development of sound policy, making government less effective. Recent surveys from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press show unprecedented levels of frustration and anger with the federal government and only small minorities approving of the job being done by either Republican or Democratic leaders.
Nowhere is this deleterious effect more pronounced than in the quagmire of challenges gripping America’s economy. The inability of our leaders to deal effectively with pressing issues like deficit reduction, tax reform and job growth is imperiling our economic future. The media exacerbate the problem by focusing on the most extreme voices and sound bites, oversimplifying issues and neglecting the multiplicity of opinions and approaches needed to solve these complex policy problems.
Chaired by former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the National Institute for Civil Discourse is committed to fostering an open exchange of ideas and expression of values that will lead to better problem-solving and more effective government. With your help, the Institute can promote the frank, respectful and vigorous debate that has been our legacy and is our only hope for meeting the urgent challenges now facing America.
In times of great need, Americans have always rallied. There is hope for our country precisely because Americans have the power to demand a healthier political process and have the vision to encourage a new generation of civic leaders.
Imagine an electorate that holds our political leaders to a higher standard of engagement. Imagine media leaders who broadcast stories of constructive conflict in which civil discourse forges the path to innovative solutions. Imagine candidates and elected officials who conduct enthusiastic and respectful campaigns. Imagine Americans with a renewed sense of being part of a national conversation.
Join us in calling on every American citizen - leaders, voters, activists, commentators - to honor the central role that civil discourse has played in the history of our democracy by recommitting to participate in a thoughtful national dialogue.