A Republic – 3.0 Story of You the People Development and Why
“You are the one you are waiting for.” You the PEOPLE
Since this is a story of discovery, let me tell you about the voyage. It all started innocently enough. I was retiring and had nothing to do with the rest of my life so I had to decide whether to relax or work. I decided to do a little of both. I was a government major in college and had worked as a radio announcer so I thought I would go give some speeches. Speeches on why, despite its faults, this country was head and shoulders above the rest. Tell people to stop griping about things and enjoy their good fortune. Most people are lucky to be born in the USA. As a friend of mine said after he came back from a trip overseas, “Wow, I had no idea. The fact is I won the ovarian lottery, I was born in the USA”. Bad as it seems the rest of the world is way worse off. If there are problems here, and there surely are, you can fix them. Most other people in the world cannot fix theirs. They are controlled and have no way to fix things themselves.
So I went out to tell my story. Easy money, eh? Just build a speech of an hour or so and go give it. Work about 20 weeks a year to add to my social security and all would be well. I could spend the rest of the time doing the things we all think of in retirement. I would get a motor home maybe and give my speeches while we traveled. Spend time with my kids. What a deal!
I knew there would be an audience, and there was. Problem was, and is, people knew what I was talking about but didn’t know how to do it. They lacked self-confidence. They knew they were supposed to help out. They knew they were supposed to be a part of the process. But they didn’t think they could. They still had lost the confidence the Founders had placed in them.
They all griped about the way things were but didn’t know they were the key. You can’t have a country of, by, and for the people if the people aren’t part of the process. Right now, by and large, they are not.
Why, was my first question. The answer kept coming back. “We/I don’t have enough time.” “We/I can’t make a difference.” Is that true I thought to myself? Certainly I was as guilty as the next person. I just voted without much effort. I just listened to the TV, got turned off by the lies and name calling, and voted for whom I felt like. Many times I would not know who the person was on the ballot. If they were from the next town why would I? How could I know them? I knew some of the people on the city council and I was unhappy with them, but I didn’t know the new guys and gals. So I waited until I was really unhappy and then voted against people instead of for someone. Neither party appealed to me that much. I just voted for the person – only I didn’t know whom I was voting for most of the time. I paid attention to the Presidential elections. I listened to the news. Maybe I listened to a couple of speeches early on to see what the person was about. After that it is all spin based on polls anyway I figured. Then I voted for the lesser evil. Sound familiar?
Well if I am going tell people how to be citizens I had better do better myself. What are citizens supposed to do anyway? I didn’t know so I went to find out. Lo and behold, no one else did either. Everyone had some idea, voting, picking up trash, volunteering, stuff like that. But where was the definition? I looked everywhere and only found a bunch of organizations that help new immigrants pass the test to become citizens. So I took the test. Good test. Good U. S. History and U. S. government. Reminded me of my civics course in high school where we learned about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and how to pass a bill in the Congress. Then we took a test, got a grade and forgot about it. It was in history class I think. The “citizenship” grade on our report card was not about this. It was about whether we were a good kid or not. I flunked once.
So I set out to find out what you & I, the citizens, were really supposed to do. Easy huh? Wrong. I couldn’t find a single definition for citizenship other than the normal ones of what country you belong to. None that said here is where the citizen sits in the scheme of things and here is their job description. Well that got me. I am the type of guy that if you tell me something just is, so don’t ask and don’t worry about it, I am unhappy. I want to know why. And I won’t stop looking until I find out. It is my strength and weakness at the same time. So after a few trips to the library and asking my friends I found out this was a problem. People did not know what they were supposed to do because no one had told them what to do. There is no definition of citizen in the Constitution. The dictionary one is weak.
So I went to Philadelphia and Washington, and Boston and Williamsburg, etc. to see if anyone there knew. No they didn’t. But they had some people who lived there before who did. People like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and James Madison and John Adams. The people who wrote our Constitution had a very clear idea of what a citizen should be. The citizens need to be virtuous and informed according to the Founders. They said it again and again. Why they didn’t put it into the Constitution I don’t know, but there it was. Simple, easy and wise. The citizens of this country are the boss. They are supposed act like free upright people. They are supposed to know what is going on. And to have the heart and good sense to elect the right people to represent them. People who would put God, country, and community first, the people second and themselves third.
Super, I can go give my speeches now. Have a nice retirement. I joined the National Speakers Assn. and started out. Joined a Monday Night Football session too where we bet a few dimes on every possible thing that could happen in the game. I was confident. My life was set. It was going to be easy money. Wrong again. People kept saying they needed some sort of organization. They said they needed some sort of training. I said what did you learn in school? The answer was nothing. It was about then that I learned that 32 States didn’t teach civics and/or citizenship. They had put a lot of soft subjects into the curriculum after Vietnam and History, Civics and Geography were the losers. That’s why Jay Leno has such an easy time finding subjects for his show. Most Americans don’t know about their country. Strange how people forget and don’t learn from history. I learned in my studies that the reason for the public schools in the first place is to teach a central version of citizenship. Before the public school the USA had all private, mostly religious, schools and the result was the nation was fragmenting. So the Founders later in life worked to create a public school system. So here is the reason for their existence and they threw it out. So back to the drawing board and design a training program.
So I designed a training program for adults that can go on any street USA and started to show it off. It was a hit. Only one problem. Americans, it turns out, like to win too much. They fought over every little thing. Then when they came to agreement on the big issues they would start to argue about the details. As a result they never did their job. So I put some civility skills in there to let them keep order by themselves. After all these are the rulers of their country. They should be able to govern themselves. That worked. I call them Citizenship Skills. I got them from the Preamble to the Constitution. They are at Appendix 1. It was perfect. Right in tune with what the Founders wanted. This little group process produces an informed virtuous citizen.
Then my Dad died and that put everything on hold for about five years. I dabbled with it in the meanwhile and even competed for an Army contract for a citizenship program for their High School ROTC Program. I won. I was amazed. I had been competing against some major publishing houses. That’s when I knew I had something.
Right after that a funny thing happened. I was drinking my coffee one morning and looking out the window. Then I decided to open my e-mail. There was a message from a guy named Sergei Stafeev. I figured he was selling insurance or something so I was about to dump it. Then I noticed it came from the web site so I opened. It said, “Hello I represent the Non- Governmental Organizations of Northwest Russia”. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Russia? I had spent my whole life defending against them. Now they wanted my help? Too much! Well to make a long story short I went over there and found that they were just like we were in the 1800s. They had a democracy but had no idea how to make it work. Oh sure they had a constitution but so what. What did it mean anyway? How does the system really work? They had listened to and tried our government’s idea of democracy and said it didn’t work. So they were shopping around for new ideas for teaching democracy. As one Professor said, “We have tried your government’s idea of democracy. Our analysis shows that it will just trade one elite for another. We have had enough of that. We want to be a government of, by, and for the people. Can you help us?”
After testing out the little program they decided this was just what they needed. So they put me on this Russian train and sent me to this little province north of St. Petersburg to develop a Russian version. It has been like being a kid in a candy store. These people are hungry for democracy. They have developed a whole set of models to train their whole people. Not in how to pass a bill in the Duma. But how to think and act like a free person. How to elect good representatives. How to be a partner with their government. These models are for all schools, all organizations, and everyone from 6-60. They are fantastic. They will be a great democracy.
So that’s the story of a little idea that could. It just keeps on growing. Now it is ready to go again in the USA. That is, if you will join in. The rest of this little book will tell you how you can make this country of, by, and for the people again.