Sunday, October 1, 2023

In an unprecedented move, the libraries and foundations of 13 former U.S. Presidents have banded together to issue what they’re calling “an urgent call to action for all Americans.” The signatories include institutions representing virtually the entire spectrum presidential politics – from Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan, to Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon to John F. Kennedy – stretching back to Herbert Hoover.

Among the issues of concern cited are the rule of law, the protection of individual rights and “the importance of compassion, tolerance, pluralism, and respect for others.”

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Citing their own “wide range of views,” the cosigners reaffirm, “Debate and disagreement are central features in a healthy democracy.”

But, in order to safeguard that essential component, :Civility and respect in political discourse, whether in an election year or otherwise, are essential.”

It ends by enjoining the following:

“Each of us has a role to play and responsibilities to uphold. Our elected officials must lead by example and govern effectively in ways that deliver for the American people. This, in turn, will help to restore trust in public service. The rest of us must engage in civil dialogue; respect democratic institutions and rights; uphold safe, secure, and accessible elections; and contribute to local, state, or national improvement.

“By signing this statement, we reaffirm our commitment to the principles of democracy undergirding this great nation, protecting our freedom, and respecting our fellow citizens. When united by these convictions, America is stronger as a country and an inspiration for others.”

Here is the statement in full as well as a list of the institutions co-signing it:

“The unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, are principles that bind us together as Americans. They have enabled the United States to strive toward a more perfect union, even when we have not always lived up to those ideals.

As a diverse nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, democracy holds us together. We are a country rooted in the rule of law, where the protection of the rights of all people is paramount. At the same time, we live among our fellow citizens, underscoring the importance of compassion, tolerance, pluralism, and respect for others.

We, the undersigned, represent a wide range of views across a breadth of issues. We recognize that these views can exist peaceably side by side when rooted in the principles of democracy. Debate and disagreement are central features in a healthy democracy. Civility and respect in political discourse, whether in an election year or otherwise, are essential.

Americans have a strong interest in supporting democratic movements and respect for human rights around the world because free societies elsewhere contribute to our own security and prosperity here at home. But that interest is undermined when others see our own house in disarray. The world will not wait for us to address our problems, so we must both continue to strive toward a more perfect union and help those abroad looking for U.S. leadership.

Each of us has a role to play and responsibilities to uphold. Our elected officials must lead by example and govern effectively in ways that deliver for the American people. This, in turn, will help to restore trust in public service. The rest of us must engage in civil dialogue; respect democratic institutions and rights; uphold safe, secure, and accessible elections; and contribute to local, state, or national improvement.

By signing this statement, we reaffirm our commitment to the principles of democracy undergirding this great nation, protecting our freedom, and respecting our fellow citizens. When united by these convictions, America is stronger as a country and an inspiration for others.”

Obama Presidential Center
George W. Bush Presidential Center
Clinton Foundation
George & Barbara Bush Foundation
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute
The Carter Center
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
Richard Nixon Foundation
LBJ Foundation
John F. Kennedy Library Foundation
Truman Library Institute
Roosevelt Institute
Hoover Presidential Foundation

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