September 14, 2018

Dear Colleagues,
There's no expiration date on national anthems. Nonetheless, much has happened since this September day in 1814, more than two centuries ago, when Francis Scott Key penned famous words that many of us know by heart:

"O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars  
through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming? ..."

His long night's watch was not disappointing. The American flag -- "the star-spangled banner" -- appeared at dawn over Fort McHenry in spite of "the bombs bursting in air." Key's lyrics move from unsure to triumphant. Then they shift again in the final verse, where they border on warmongering:

"Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto -- 'In God is our trust ...' "

That's where the sense of a possible expiration date for this national anthem seeps in. We must conquer? Who are we to decide when a war is "just"? We live in an age when many wise souls have advocated and even shown the way to peaceful solutions for major world problems. Some have gone so far as to suggest, in the words of poet and polymath Piet Hein: "Co-existence / Or no existence."

So we would love to know: If you were going to choose an alternative national anthem, what would it be? Please send us your ideas! We know our community to be a remarkably resourceful group, and we can't wait to see what you'll share. You will find more information and instructions for sending on this page: 

Salaam, Shalom, Shanti, Peace,

The Practicing Democracy Project Team

We the People Book Club
A Discussion Group and Practice Circle
September 2018 - August 2019

Our new book club is underway, discussing John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. On October 1, we will start Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. Each month from now through August 2019 we will explore literary voices that stimulate our thinking, move our hearts, and inspire us to a thorough-going practice of democracy.  
You are welcome to join this book club at any time, as we plunge into themes like resilience, the necessity of connection, and the tensions spawned by technological change. We offer online discussion with a Practice Circle and also the option of a free reading-guide download for groups that meet in person. The reading guide for The Grapes of Wrath is now available; you will find a link on this page.

To join the online discussion and receive weekly emails, go here:  
Carry the conversation forward with these stimulating books:

Letters to a Young Activist
by Todd Gitlin: Wise advice to the coming generations of concerned citizens.
They Will Inherit the Earth

by Sebastian Junger: A thoughtful and provocative call to learn the meaning of community from indigenous peoples. 

The Practicing Democracy Project is a collaboration between The Center for Spirituality & Practice and the Fetzer Institute. Seek more at