Photo Credit: California Council for the Humanities
“You want to do something good for democracy?” asked Tom Hollihan, Ph.D., USC Annenberg professor and CCLP faculty fellow. “Subscribe to a newspaper!” he told the audience at the California Council for the Humanities’ Searching for Democracy Forum, a symposium co-sponsored by the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.
Hollihan’s suggestion that a strong democracy requires a vibrant news media was just one of many views on democracy and civic discourse offered by participants at the March 4th meeting held at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. Co-sponsored by nearly a dozen nonprofit organizations and academic institutions, the event kicked off a two-year initiative designed to foster public discourse on the meaning of democracy through a series of local, regional and statewide activities.
“When people enter the discourse initially, they aren’t very skilled at it,” observed Joyce Appleby, Professor Emerita of History at UCLA, during the opening panel. “Democracy is a flow–there are people who have been in it for a long time and people who are new to it.”
The opening panel, “The Culture of Civic Conversation in American Democracy,” featured Appleby; Kathleen Hall Jamieson, American Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania; Ron Nehring, Chairman of the California Republican Party; Gregory Rodriguez, founder and executive director of Zócalo Public Square; and Scott Shafer, KQED host and reporter for the California Report.
Photo Credit: California Council for the Humanities
With the ongoing public protests in Wisconsin fresh on the minds of conference participants, much of the discussion centered on the importance of civility in American political discourse. Yet, many of the speakers cautioned against glorifying the past.
“I would be cautious about being nostalgic for an era that never was,” warned Hollihan.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson (pictured left), who serves as director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, shared Hollihan’s perspective and addressed the assumption that “things have gotten worse.” She argues that there has not been “much of a change since the 1950s.”
“My suspicion about the culture is that it is making us more aware of things that were always there,” she said. Jamieson added that the public should strive for civility not because things are worse but simply in order to become better.
CCLP has partnered with the California Council for the Humanities and organizations across California to support a statewide conversation on democracy and political discourse. In addition to supporting the March 4th forum, representatives from CCLP attended the California Council for the Humanities’ Planning Workshop on March 5th. The workshop brought together representatives from a broad cross-section of academic institutions and civic organizations to discuss strategies for promoting a more informed public discourse.
If you missed the March 4th event, please click on the links below to watch the videos of each panel:
Panelists: Joyce Appleby, Dept. of History, UCLA; Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Annenberg School for Communication and Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of PA; Ron Nehring, California Republican Party; Gregory Rodriguez, Zócalo Public Square, New America Foundation, Author and Journalist; Scott Shafer, Host and Reporter, The California Report;
In The Past
Panelists: Lisa García Bedolla, Graduate School of Education and Center for Latino Policy Research, UC Berkeley; Thomas Hollihan, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC; Beverly P. Lynch, Graduate School Education and Information Studies, UCLA; Carolyn de la Peña, Dept. of American Studies and Humanities Institute, UC Davis;
Panelists: Cruz Reynoso, School of Law, UC Davis; Donna Schuele, Dept. of Criminology, Law, and Society, UC Irvine; Robert C. Smith, Dept. of Political Science, San Francisco State University; Ian Masters, KPFK-FM and UCLA/Hammer Forum;</em
Panelists: William Deverell, Dept. of History, USC and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; Elaine Elinson, Author; Stan Yogi, Author; George J. Sanchez, Dept. of American Studies and Ethnicity and History, Center for Diversity and Democracy, USC;
In The Present
Panelists: Tara McPherson, School of Cinematic Arts’ Critical Studies Program, USC; Siva Vaidhyanathan, Dept. of Media Studies and Law, University of VA; Louis Freedberg, California Watch; Leif Wellington Haase, Senior Fellow for New America’s Health Policy Program;
Panelists: Daniel HoSang, Depts. of Political Science and Ethnic Studies, University of OR; Jane Junn, Dept. of Political Science, USC; Mark Paul, New America Foundation and Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley;
Panelists: Lisa García Bedolla, Graduate School of Education and Center for Latino Policy Research, UC Berkeley; George Lipsitz, Dept. of Black Studies, UC Santa Barbara; Donald Miller, Dept. of Sociology and Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC; Gregory Rodriguez, Zócalo Public Square, New America Foundation, Author and Journalist;
Panelists: Chris Abani, Dept. of Creative Writing, UC Riverside/Author; Omnia El Shakry, Dept. of History, UC Davis; Bill Whitaker, CBS Evening News Correspondent; Jane Junn, Dept. of Political Science, USC