Civic Saturdays

It’s hard to ignore the cynicism and even despair that so many Americans express about the country’s current governance and future prospects. Partisan polarization, social media manipulation, filter bubbles…the list of impediments to genuine democratic deliberation is daunting.

An intriguing new initiative is hoping to avoid those impediments. It’s called “Civic Saturdays,” and in Indianapolis, it will be sponsored by Spirit and Place, a well-regarded community-building initiative that is part of the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, in partnership with the League of Women Voters and the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.

It will be adamantly non-partisan–an effort to bridge political differences by revisiting shared civic aspirations.

Civic Saturdays are described as an effort to create “a shared sense of moral and civic purpose across all publics.” It’s the brainchild of Citizen University, a national organization that works to foster responsible and empowered citizenship. Civic Saturdays are best understood as brief dialogues–they last only one hour–  that invite citizens to reconnect with each other and with America’s foundational principles and documents.

Indianapolis is now one of 19 cities that host Civic Saturdays, and the first session will take place on April 28 at 10:30 a.m. at the Glendale Branch Library, 6101 N. Keystone Ave.

The flyers that have been produced to invite participation explain the concept.

In a time of deep political divide, we must create new approaches to fostering a shared sense of moral and civic purpose. Civic Saturday seeks to bring friends and strangers together to nurture our civic spirit.

Civic Saturday is a civic analogue to a faith gathering. But it’s not about, nor does it aim to replace, faith traditions. It’s about American civic religion—the creed of liberty, equality, and self-government that truly unites us (even as we argue over it).

We’ll hear poetry, sing songs, read great and provocative American texts, and listen to a civic “sermon.” We’ll also gather in Civic Circles to share thoughts and ideas on how we can show up and support each other in public life.

Civic Saturdays are one of several promising efforts popping up around the country that are trying to penetrate the “filter bubbles” and other tribal enclaves within which too many of us reside. The goal is to build community among people who may not agree on the preferred solutions to the issues confronting us, but who do agree on the rules and behaviors that enable civil, productive debates.

America won’t solve its problems if we don’t talk to each other, and those conversations are likely to be illuminated by reminders of our foundational aspirations.

If you live in or around Indianapolis, consider attending.


  1. Unions served this purpose for decades but are now perceived as negative due to years of right-wing propaganda. Why else does one believe in destroying the institution which lifts up and unites the working class?

    These dialogues remind me of the social circles used over a decade ago. They helped our community during racial tensions. Sadly, the folks who needed it the most would never consider attending.

    Those who demonize social media for instilling tribalism are missing the point of Einstein’s prophetic work. Man is both a rugged individualist and social being. That’s not an OR.

    Social media brings together like-minded people across the globe to cuss and discuss. As the young people march for unity, we are a global society. Our technology has allowed us the borders to melt away which scares some folks to death. We’ve been somewhat isolated as a species, but the borders are disappearing. I can have a conversation with a journalist on the ground in Syria. I don’t need to get the 6 o’clock news version. 😉

    Christians feel threatened by Muslims and Eastern Philosophy. There was a time in Muncie not too long ago where Pastors were telling their parishioners to avoid yoga because it was the “work of the devil.” It’s actually part of Hinduism which assists in the flow of energy.

    Fears are the source energy for the entire conservative movement. Every ‘action’ taken by Trump and his administration is ‘reactionary’. Nationalism itself is motivated by fear. Patriotism the same. The USA isn’t the “grand society”. Authoritarianism grows due to the fears of Americans–specifically older white Christians. The White-Euro centric society is changing forever. #MAGA

    We’ve been heading backward, but our youth won’t allow it.

    The foundation of Einstein’s dictum is based on this premise:

    “Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society.”

    We need a society, a global one, which addresses our fundamental attributes because the ones we have now are working against our human instincts and are unsustainable for the planet. The planet is screaming for us to change our ways.

  2. How long has this gone on? Do they follow a certain format or make their own? Sounds like a great idea! Is it kind of like Chattaquas from a hundred years ago?

  3. We’ll hear poetry, sing songs, read great and provocative American texts, and listen to a civic “sermon.” We’ll also gather in Civic Circles to share thoughts and ideas on how we can show up and support each other in public life.

    Good luck with that

  4. Since 2011, the home page of my major website, has featured the following words of wisdom: “Problems can’t be solved at the same level of awareness that created them” ~Albert Einstein.

    Maybe, the “intriguing new initiative…. called “Civic Saturdays,” is the type of response he was envisioning in his exceptional mind.

    Even as an 80 year old grandfather, Todd and I still do have a few things in common.

  5. Todd; I come from a union family and I am appalled at the downward trend of our basic economy due to the destruction of unions. As for social media, it can only be as positive or negative as users make of it. I have questioned personally being influenced due to content of posts on Facebook and other social media and their source. I do not Tweet and have no interest. I make my own decisions regarding the content and research frequently for facts and answers.

    “America won’t solve its problems if we don’t talk to each other, and those conversations are likely to be illuminated by reminders of our foundational aspirations.”

    The above quote from Sheila will either have a connection to my following comments or not; depending on your personal “civic aspirations” as well as your trust – or lack thereof – in social media content. An issue which I hope is part of “Civic Saturdays”.

    An AOL news item this morning reported, “Trump’s approval rating hits major new record: poll”, the results were a 42% approval rating. This was reported by SSRS; after the past few weeks we have suffered through, I decided to search further to answer a question most of us have asked only in passing, “who is conducting these polls and who is being polled?” SSRS is a Microsoft SQL server which is a software product whose primary function is the storing and retrieving data requested by “other software applications”. Personally, I question is this “storing and retrieving” or is it hacking? This specific SSRS poll was conducted by telephone between March 22 – 25, based on the economy during those few days. A total of 1,014 people were polled but SSRS came up with a national approval rating for Trump of 42%. The amount of research to find these few answers has me already worn out this morning.

    I do hope Sheila will provide results of “Civic Saturdays”; not only about the content of issues discussed but the amount of response from the public locally.

  6. Attitudes must change. Hell,most of the hostility I’ve received from this very forum were from those who share my party affiliation. Unfortunately, unlike most here, I’m disenfranchised from the Democratic Party–and I would never vote Republican. However,I will no longer support a party that doesn’t look out for my interests–just the same as lobbyists,et al.

    But I now understand where the hostility comes from. So Trump gets elected and the center of the leftwing is jumping out of its skin. But if you notice it’s primarily the educated left wing, those living on the coasts, who are angry that a system working for them might be broken up(especially by the Bernie Bros.) might leave them with less. Meanwhile, these same people never cared about those left out as a result of globalization, and those profiting from globalization are making bank.

    Something to think about. That is where the bifurcation exists. Unity? Only on the “terms” set forth by those supporting the establishment. Attitudes must change before there can be a genuine unity. Again,I hate to be Debbie Downer,but Big Pharma,Big Oil,The Insurance Industry,The Re-Insurance Industry,MIC,The Koch Bros and Wall St have no need for a Civic Saturday. Government works for them. They are currently effective and rule the government and set the narrative/agenda. We can have plenty of Civic Saturdays and continue to be ineffective and impotent. We need good candidates willing to do the grunt work. We need a party willing to support and provide good candidates. We need informed people to support those good candidates. We need to REJECT bad candidates and those that have deceptively charmed the public. Unfortunately,we now have a system that ignores the needs of the citizens and relies on party affiliation(s)/monies wherein those monies shape and form the body politic.

    I applaud the idea of Civic Saturdays,I question its effectiveness. Especially if attitudes don’t change. I believe we need a genuine revolution to change the body politic. The battle really comes down to fighting the influence of big money upon politics.

  7. JoAnn:”Todd; I come from a union family and I am appalled at the downward trend of our basic economy due to the destruction of unions.”

    Much of that destruction came from the “educated left.”

    Noma Rae (Crystal Lee Sutton) would be treated as a pariah by “today’s” Democrats. She would be told by Today’s Democrats she’s wasting her time supporting Bernie and would be summarily blamed for any losses suffered by establishment Democrats. She would also be told in a derogatory manner that she is stupid for working in a mill and she should have gotten a better education. Suffice to say,the Democrats of today supports the management class.

  8. William: The mills are gone — Norma Rae would be on welfare or in low paying job unable to make ends meet.

  9. “Sadly, the folks who needed it the most would never consider attending.” Todd is correct. My hardcore DT supporting neighbors do not go to the library, ever, and wouldn’t dream of going to somewhere where their bigotry and hate would be exposed and refuted with facts, with or without civil treatment.

  10. JoAnn – Microsoft SQL server is just a standard relational database system (RDBS), like Oracle, Sybase or MySQL. These databases are used for almost anything that stores and retrieves data – even the data in this blog, like users and emails.

    From their website, SSRS creates tools and methods to help whoever wants to collect data, aggregate the results and report it. Again using this blog as an example, there are tools that provide things like format, font and data feed options.

    In this case it seems that CNN did this particular poll that showed a 42% approval rating.

  11. If you want to know why “establishment” Democrats have qualms about Bernie, I’ll lay it out for you. Bernie insists on changing the party, but he refuses to join the party. To paraphrase (since I don’t remember the exact quote) Jonathon Capehart, he should at least join the family before he starts rearranging the furniture.

    Let me ask you to put yourself in the position of the DNC in 2016. One of your candidates has been a party member for 40 years, has raised lots of money for you and for your candidates up and down the ballot for years, and when she ran for and lost the nomination, she wholeheartedly supported the man who beat her. The other candidate isn’t a member of your party, has never raised a dime for you or any of your other candidates, and when he ran for and lost the nomination, only gave halfhearted support to the woman who beat him. I would note here that, if you look at the primaries and their vote count, you will see that she did beat him.

    Now I will ask you to get real. The biggest problem we have at this moment is the Republicans, who control the Congress and the White House. Your best bet to get rid of the biggest problem is to elect Democrats. If you want to change how the Democratic Party functions, do it from within. The party is ripe for takeover by younger, more progressive people. You have to think long term solutions, not immediate gratification. I’ll turn my soapbox over to someone else. Thank you for reading. Good luck with your meetings, Dr. Kennedy.

  12. “Sadly, the folks who needed it the most would never consider attending.”

    We all need it. It’s a way for people to realize that they are in a majority and can make a difference together.

  13. I am going to make people around our area of the Northwoods of Minnesota aware of this program! – I know the library foundation would support it as well a great many other groups. This is a marvelous idea! (Sure beats military parades – any bets he WANTS to dress in a military style uniform???

  14. William; if much of the destruction of unions came from the “educated left”, how is it that the Republican states are where unions have been virtually destroyed? You, and others, who don’t support the Democratic party because we do not meet all of your requirements, plus those “Bernie bots” who refused to support him when he put his support and his vote behind Hillary, hoping to prevent the election of Trump, are why and how the Electoral College put him in the White House. Rudy Guiliani told us repeatedly that the Republican party “has something up their sleeve guaranteeing the Electoral College WILL elect Trump”. I voted for the lesser of two evils hoping to keep from happening to this country what we are living with today…and one element we are living with is doubt about living much longer due to Trump’s insatiable lust for war and why he appointed Bolton.

  15. I have been in the middle of discussions around global warming now for many years and progress towards an adequately educated public has been painfully slow. There are very few of the talking points both pro and con that I haven’t heard and the discussion (it’s not a debate) has taught me a great deal about the facts of the science and the misinformation that feeds the reluctance to accept the truth.

    The good and bad thing about science is that it’s a virtually infallible process to uncover the objective truth about the reality that we are one with. For people who choose to get educated in it the case is built point by point until patterns of how things are become ingrained in the students thinking. Such knowledge creates the desire for more and life long learning becomes compelling because what you come to know is never everything and filling in the voids, either my voids our our collective voids, continually beckons.

    In almost all cases science progresses out of the public eye and periodically new revelations about how things are allow engineers to figure out a new useful application that scratches an itch in everyone’s lives and they discover a new device or product or service that is beyond their understanding in terms of how it works but is in reach of how to work it.

    So why does anyone care about how anthropogenic global warming works?

    That answer is simple. Propaganda that serves political purpose has been introduced into conversation. Because science reveals objective truth propaganda is absolutely stark in contrast to it. Among people with the right knowledge propaganda stands out like flashing neon.

    Civics propaganda is typically philosophically or culturally based so harder to contrast to truth. Compared to science it’s some part opinion as well as objective truth.

    So if we cannot discriminate between education and propaganda in areas where the objective truth is proven how can we in less contrasting areas?

    Until we get propaganda off of the table education to replace it will be virtually impossible.

  16. “President Donald Trump’s approval rating has rebounded to its highest level since the 100-day mark of his presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, even as his approval ratings for handling major issues remain largely negative.”

    Hollyd; above I copied and pasted the first paragraph from the web site you listed. Did the same with your statement, “In this case it seems that CNN did this particular poll that showed a 42% approval rating.” CNN did not “do” the poll; the actual poll was done by SSRS at the request of CNN. However you view SSRS as a “standard relational database system “; do you accept 1,014 telephone calls to be an actual cross-section of this nation and that 42% approve of Trump? My finding on this one poll make me question even more how factual any poll can be considered. I didn’t bother questioning why AOL posted this news item today as major news; I am well aware AOL is far right-leaning in their views as evidenced in most of their news reports. They also appear to show a high level of interest in the nudity and/or near nudity and see-through wardrobes of celebrity women. If there was a way to transfer my E-mail address book and Favorite Place (where I have posted this blog) to another Internet source, I would do so.

  17. Those whose focus is wealth concentration are doing everything possible, which is an awful lot, to replace democracy with brainwashing.

  18. Peggy Hannon at 9:45am:
    “he (Bernie) should at least join the family before he starts rearranging the furniture. ”

    Another way: Donald Trump should at least join the family before he starts hauling the furniture to the pawnshop.

    No, Delirium Tremens, don’t join the family at all until you get a job.

  19. Pete at 10:44 am today:

    Pete, your essay works even if you substitute FAKE NEWS for PROPAGANDA.

  20. Thank you very much Sheila for the heads up on this initiative! It sounds tremendous. Anything that would enable us all to get past all this political and propagandist posturing and get down to brass tacks regarding issues that are of importance to all of us would be like a breath of fresh air. It would also enable such dialogue to start of the grassroots level and then work itself up the food chain while being underpinned by what citizens really think and feel and can arrive at common ground over. Given what we’ve been through of late that may sound quite to some but it’s absolutely necessary for all if we’re going to pull this country out of the ditch that it’s been pushed into and truly exercise our responsibilities as citizens to ensure that representative government as we have practiced in this country for the last 240 years continues to be such and is linked irretrievably to the individual citizen as it was intended to be. Huzzah!!!

  21. OMG, the more I see and hear, propganda, brainwashing, advertising and fake news are all the same thing – covert attempts to manipulate culture to promote wealth concentration.

  22. JoAnn – I was not judging the poll content or conclusions. I was replying based on your question as to whether this was hacking. It’s not hacking for a company (like CNN) to contract with another company (like SSRS) to conduct a poll in its name. CNN would be the ones to stand behind the poll, which it seems they have. It seems to me that CNN is trying to be more transparent in stating who they contracted with.

  23. This is a lot like thoughts and prayers. It will make the participant feel better but will not impress your governor or lots of you other rabid politicians at all.

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