Presidential Centers Sound Alarm on Democracy's Fragility

09:26 07.09.2023

In a historic move, a coalition of entities supporting 13 presidential libraries dating back to Herbert Hoover has issued a joint statement expressing concern for the state of democracy in the United States. This is the first time that the presidential libraries have joined together to make such a public declaration, highlighting the gravity of the situation. The statement calls for a recommitment to the country's bedrock principles, including the rule of law and respecting a diversity of beliefs, with an emphasis on compassion, tolerance, and pluralism.

The joint message from presidential centers, foundations, and institutes emphasizes the need to uphold secure and accessible elections and respect democratic institutions. It acknowledges the importance of debate and disagreement in democracy but also raises concerns about the coarsening of public discourse and the rise in death threats against officials and their families. The statement emphasizes that civility and respect in political discourse are essential, especially in an election year.

The timing of this statement is crucial as polls show that a significant portion of Republicans still believe the falsehoods perpetuated by former President Donald Trump and his allies about the 2020 presidential election being stolen. Trump, who is also facing multiple criminal indictments, has further undermined the justice system with his attacks. The statement does not call out specific individuals but is a clear acknowledgment that those associated with former presidents are worried about the country's trajectory.

Efforts to suppress or weaken voter turnout are of particular interest to the LBJ Foundation, given that President Lyndon Johnson considered the signing of the Voting Rights Act his proudest legislative accomplishment. The bipartisan statement was signed by the majority of living former presidents' foundations, including the Hoover Presidential Foundation, Roosevelt Institute, Truman Library Institute, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, LBJ Foundation, Richard Nixon Foundation, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Carter Center, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, George & Barbara Bush Foundation, Clinton Foundation, George W. Bush Presidential Center, and Obama Presidential Center.

Notably, the Eisenhower Foundation chose not to sign the statement, stating that there had been no collective discussion about it, only an invitation to sign. Each presidential entity has its own programs related to democracy, according to the foundation. Despite this, the joint statement represents a significant milestone in the collective effort to address concerns about the state of American democracy.

The push for this joint statement came from the George W. Bush Presidential Center, with the support of former President George W. Bush himself. The goal was to send a positive message reminding Americans of their foundational principles and the importance of unity, especially when the country is in disarray. The statement also serves as a reminder that democracy cannot be taken for granted.

Other organizations, such as the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Institute, quickly signed on to support the joint statement. Melissa Giller, the chief marketing officer at the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Institute, stated that the decision to sign on was made swiftly and that the statement aligns with the foundation's efforts to promote public civility and address the decline in trust, social cohesion, and personal interaction in American society.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama and the CEO of the Obama Foundation, expressed the importance of restoring faith in democratic institutions and the need to combat disinformation. Jarrett noted that the joint statement is part of a broader effort by the Obama Foundation to strengthen democracy and create opportunities for people to believe in the integrity of the system. She emphasized that the current state of democracy feels fragile and called for a unified front to address the challenges.

Overall, the joint statement from the coalition supporting presidential libraries represents a significant step towards addressing concerns about the state of American democracy. It serves as a reminder of the core principles that underpin democracy and the importance of unity and civility in political discourse. The statement also highlights the global impact of the United States' democratic processes and the need for Americans to come together to protect and strengthen their democracy.

/ Thursday, September 7, 2023, 9:26 AM /

themes:  Barack Obama  Donald Trump

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