American Civic Forum advances civil literacy and social solidarity among Americans through the arts.
Americans are more than taxpayers or voters: We are citizens, practitioners of government. Different citizens have different dispositions and talents and, therefore, play different roles in politics. Some are advocates; others, negotiators; still others, deliberators—but all make vital democratic contributions.
Civil literacy transcends civic literacy (i.e., knowing how a bill becomes a law) and includes a wide array of knowledge—scientific, historical, social, media—everyone needs to thrive in a complex, advanced, liberal society.
Trust in our compatriots is the cornerstone of functional self-government. Goodwill and good humor—cultivated by citizens collaborating in good faith—are forces that bind us.
Shared civic life
It is important for national unity for Americans to share common experiences, a common cultural vocabulary, and a common respect for civic life and public institutions.
Pluralism is America’s greatest achievement and none of us would be recognizably American without our culture’s full diversity—from Thomas Jefferson to Thelonious Monk to pita and hummus to Spanish loanwords. E pluribus unum means we—both as people and as polity—are incomplete without the experiences and cultural gifts of all Americans.
About our name
American Civic Forum’s name comes from Občanské Fórum, the Czech organization that, along with its Slovakian counterpart Public Against Violence, united dissidents against the Soviet-back regime in Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
The founder and leader of Občanské Fórum—literally “Civic Forum”—was playwright and dissident Václav Havel. After the Velvet Revolution, Havel served as the tenth president of Czechoslovakia (1989–1992) and, after the Czech Republic and Slovakia separated, as the first Czech president (1993-2003). Havel wrote eloquently about the philosophical and moral proposition of democracy in both his plays and in essays, interviews, letters and other writings.
Genuine politics—every politics worthy of the name—the only politics I am willing to devote myself to—is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action, to and for the whole.