The state of American democracy and civic engagement: My conversation on NPR’s Maine Calling

Rajiv Vinnakota , President

January 6, 2023

The two-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol underscores that this is the moment to rebuild the nation’s civic strength. Citizens & Scholars is reenergized in our commitment to cultivating the next generation as informed, engaged, and hopeful citizens.  

This morning, I joined Jennifer Rooks on NPR’s Maine Calling to discuss the state of American democracy and ways to cultivate more youth civic engagement. 

Here some take-aways from our conversation: 

  1. January 6th was an alarm bell for what happens when our country underinvests in civic education and our citizenry isn’t well-informed, productively engaged, and hopeful about democracy in our country. We must not let the attack on the U.S. Capitol spur further cynicism and doubt about our democracy. Instead, we must work together across divides to strengthen our democracy for all. 
  2. Gen Z is ready to engage if we support them with the tools they need. Roughly 44 million Gen Z’ers are entering the public square, and they turned out in record numbers in the Midterm elections. They are diverse, motivated, digitally savvy, and poised to make the changes they are passionate about. But they need the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be members of a self-governing republic. 
  3. Everyone must be a civics teacher. Cultivating young people to be engaged citizens is our schools’ most important job. But it’s not JUST the job of our schools.  It’s also the job of coaches, parents, managers, faith leaders, and all of us. Each of us must look for opportunities to model civic behavior and provide Gen Z the civic education, leadership opportunities, and tools they need to participate actively in their communities. 

Hear the full conversation on Maine Calling here. The NPR affiliate in Maine hosts the live, radio call-in show that airs Mon-Fri from 11am-noon EST.

Related: Young Voters Showed Up—Now Comes the Hard Part

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