Thought leaders, members of the United States Congress and representatives from state legislatures nationwide were brought together for a thought-provoking three-day series of panels. In partnership with William & Mary, the American Evolution Forum on the Future of Representative Democracy took place on July 30, 2019 through August 1, 2019.
The full crowd of attendees viewed memorable discussions of citizenship, and the historic impact of democracy on our nation and the world at both the Kaplan Arena at William & Mary and at the Williamsburg Lodge.
Notable and influential speakers who shared their views over the three days was the Honorable George F. Allen, former Governor of Virginia, former U.S. Senator for Virginia; Robin B. Wright, journalist and author, Joint Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center; Marc Short, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the U.S.; Dr. Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House and the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London and so many more.
When the topic of district-packing and gerrymandering came up in the session Making Peace and Making Policy: Executive – Legislative Relations in a Polarized Era, Toi Hutchinson, Illinois State Senator since 2009, said “I serve in a district in Illinois where on paper it doesn’t look like I’m supposed to be the Senator at all. Not at all. Most people would assume an African American legislator is gonna have an all African American district. It also goes to some other myths about that white people can essentially represent everybody, but black people are only going to be the representative for the black people. And I don’t represent a district that’s like that and I ended up having to learn to have conversations, listen better, listen harder, listen more, talk to various different people in ways that before I was elected, I didn’t even know I had those muscles.”
Hutchinson went on to say that those are the things that make you a better legislator and a better negotiator. If someone only deals with people with their same views in a district, then how are they going to negotiate with somebody with different views?
Other session topics included: Majority Rule, Majority Rights, and Individual Liberties, A Conversation about Constitutions: Making the Rule of Law Stick, Civics Education and the Culture of Citizenship, Democracy Under Duress: A Conversation about Global Challenges and many more.
“We need to engage people around the freedom agenda that makes our societies such incredible places to live in, even if we are divided,” Dr. Niblett said when asked about how we can focus on the issues that bring people together in a democracy, instead of the issues that separate people during the session Democracy’s Next 400: The Path Forward.
To view sessions from the forum, check out the 2019 Commemoration YouTube channel.