Spring 2021 Bulletin

Our Common Purpose in Communities Across the Country

Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship
Our Common Purpose

Since the release in June 2020 of Our Common Purpose: Re­inventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the final report of the Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizen­ship, there have been a number of surprising and inspiring stories about the impact the report has had. From giving the report away as Valentine’s Day presents to ordering a copy for everyone in the city government of Boise, Idaho, Our Common Purpose has been shared, read, downloaded, viewed, and discussed around the country. As the Academy continues to work with champion organizations to advance the report’s recommendations, below are a few stories of how individuals are taking it upon themselves to put the report to work.

“The report is such a breath of hope and fresh air to counter the pessimism and divisiveness of this challenging period.”
—Andrea Martonffy, La Grange, IL

Andrea Martonffy first heard about Our Common Purpose at the Humanities Open House held at the University of Chicago in July 2020. An alumna of the university, she was thrilled to learn about Our Common Purpose and knew the report would be an ideal document to share with the La Grange Area Branch of the League of Women Voters. Using the Commission’s informational video, Andrea created a presentation for the board of her chapter of the League of Women Voters. They are now discussing how they want to implement the report’s recommendations, and Andrea is excited to share the report with other chapters in the area.

“I greatly admire the Common Purpose Project.”
—Bob Groves, Philadelphia, PA

Bob Groves is a faculty member at Temple University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Philadelphia. This past February, he taught an online course on “What Does It Mean to be an American: Two New Perspectives.” He devoted two of the course’s four Zoom sessions to Our Common Purpose. The course attracted a hundred students, all over the age of fifty. Focusing on the scope of the recommendations, the virtuous and vicious cycles of democracy, and the meaning of citizenship, Bob reported that his students enthusiastically supported many of the report’s recommendations. He especially appreciated how the report lent itself to discussions of current initiatives, noting that it was easy to relate Our Common Purpose to various national and local organizations that work to repair America’s divides.

“I think it is one of the finest and most accessible meta-analys[es] of the academic work done on how to fix our democracy that I have seen.”
—John Lesko, Parsonsfield, ME

John Lesko has been advocating for the Commission’s work since he read the report. A social economist and a retired professor of organizational behavior and public policy at Bentley University’s School of Management, John wrote an unpublished commentary on Our Common Purpose as part of his effort to get others involved. In his article, he advocates for every town hall in the country to stock a copy of Our Common Purpose and urges individuals to use the report to enhance their understanding of civic activity. He has been distributing the report and his commentary to his friends, family, and network, sharing the recommend­ations, and hoping to generate more civic engagement.

Our Common Purpose

The ongoing work of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship and efforts to advance the recommendations in Our Common Purpose: Reinvent­ing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the Commission’s final report, are made possible by the generous support of S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Alan Dachs and Lauren Dachs; David M. Rubenstein; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; and Thomas and Susan Clary.


Have you used Our Common Purpose in your own community? We would love to hear about it. Reach out to ourcommonpurpose@amacad.org to let us know!