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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Democracy needs your help

Dan Moulthrop, Chief Executive Officer, The City Club of Cleveland

Democracy needs your help

Dan Moulthrop talks with students from Citizens Leadership Academy before a forum

233 years ago, a group of 55 white, landholding men sequestered themselves through a sweltering Philadelphia summer to try to craft a government that would be of the people, by the people, and for the people. While that is certainly not the kind of group we might convene today, it's the history of our nation and that gathering created the constitution we have. When you stop to think about it, it's actually shocking how that constitution and the republic it created have endured and have provided the means for us to become a more just society, if slowly.

There are a lot of reasons to be frustrated by the painfully slow pace of our progress toward that more just society. This year that frustration is particularly high as the pandemic irrevocably alters our lives, and our government seems outmatched by its persistence. That's compounded by the racial inequities that many seem to be just now recognizing, though they have been there all along. For too long, too many of our fellow Americans have been let down by the government and institutions that are supposed to help them and protect them.

Still, despite its failings, our democracy has felt pretty stable. Until it hasn't.

The signs of instability are everywhere. It's now routine to see armed citizens showing up at peaceful demonstrations. Preposterous conspiracy theories are moving from the fringe to the mainstream, espoused by candidates who may actually end up in Congress. We have fundamental disagreements about the founding values of our country — concepts like equality under the law and believing that all of us share the same unalienable rights to life and liberty.

There is nothing inevitable about democracy and nothing God-given about our constitution. Our democracy is the work of human beings, and we don't get to keep it just because we like it. If we'd like to be able to hand it off to our children and to theirs, then we have an obligation not just to participate and vote, but to be a part of making our democracy better. That means taking the time to understand it, to appreciate its strengths and be honest about its shortcomings, and to pursue its highest principles.

It is exactly when we feel most deterred and disconnected that democracy demands we tap our inner reserves of resilience and stand up for what we cherish most. That's why The City Club of Cleveland and the nine library systems in Cuyahoga County are extending an invitation to all to join Five Days for Democracy. Starting Sept. 28, we'll take just a few minutes each day to educate ourselves and engage with ideas about what makes our democracy worth keeping and strengthening.

So, we hope you'll join us. And we hope you'll remember Ohio's voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. Make sure you're ready to do your part to make this union of ours a little bit closer to what we aspire for it.

Your participation really is the only way we get to keep it.

This op-ed originally appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business

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