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Hope in a Time of Hopelessness

By Wendy Willis, Director

We know that public mistrust in government is at an all-time high.  In fact I read today that only 13% of Americans believe that Congress is doing a good or very good job, though that is up from a low of 7% a year ago. Despite the circus atmosphere that surrounds national political coverage and the run up to a presidential election year, most Americans believe that politics could be more civil, respectful, and functional if elected officials put their minds to it.

And last month—at a Marriott Hotel in Dayton, Ohio—there were strong signs that the public is right. Over 450 people from around the world gathered in that hotel for the Kettering Foundation’s annual Deliberative Democracy Exchange to consider the question “What Does It Take to Make Democracy Work?”

Among the participants were fifteen state legislators from both parties who met over three days to discuss civic engagement, collaborative governance, and civil discourse. It was a pleasure to be with them as they traded stories, offered advice, and brainstormed ways to improve legislative governance in their own states and across the country. Over the past few years, Kettering has brought together dozens legislators for similar exchanges. Many of these legislators have forged relationships, experimented, and applied their learnings back in their home states.

These are the kind of public servants we can be proud of. These are the kind of public servants who give us hope!