Gary Quehl and William Bergquist
[For the complete report on this project see The Sages Among Us: Harnessing the Power of Civic Engagement, available as a link through the LPC Bookstore.]
“The new role of the sage leader is to walk the planet as a person of inner harmony who is civically engaged in his or her community.” That is the subject of this project on Theory S.
Civic engagement builds on traditions going back to ancient Greece. There the concept was arête, roughly translated as “civic virtue,” which prescribed duties of citizenship. The idea of civic virtue weaved its way in political philosophy across the millennia and became a fundamental part of our founding fathers’ ideology. They concluded that civic virtue was critical to the functioning of a republican government and believed that if specific habits were not nurtured— civility, open-mindedness, compromise, toleration of diversity—the new American Republic might follow previous societies and fall under the sword of authoritarianism. Their emphasis, then, was on helping others for the common good, what Alexis de Tocqueville later called “habits of the heart,” the nurturing of democratic principles and values that manifest themselves in the everyday lives of citizens (Endnote 1).
It was also de Tocqueville who declared in Democracy in America (1836) that the American people surpassed all others in their appetite for creating voluntary associations to accomplish pragmatic, idealistic, public goals. Were Tocqueville alive today, even he might be amazed at the magnitude of what has transpired since his time—though as Robert Bellah and his colleagues have noted in their 1985 update of the de Tocqueville analysis, these voluntary associations are often found locked within very focused “life style enclaves. (Endnote 2) Nevertheless, whether dedicated to the betterment of an entire society or a focused enclave, voluntary organizations continue to tap the wisdom, experience, and dedication of Americans of all ages, across all areas of national life (Endnote 3). It is principally through voluntary organizations that people become civically engaged and understand the ties they have to their community and the responsibilities they have within it.Download Article 1K Club