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Reinventing American Democracy

By Robert Carlson, Resident of Villa Gardens

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a bi-partisan, diverse group of leaders in academia, civic society, politics, and business from across the ideological spectrum.

This unique organization was founded in 1780 by John Adams and other revolutionary figures, and is one of the oldest learned societies in the U.S. Their core belief is that civic engagement is critical for the preservation and vitality of American democracy. 

In 2018, the academy convened “The Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship” to focus on their widespread concern over decreasing rates of voting, community activities and civic participation in advocacy and volunteerism, and the poor quality of civic education in the nation.

They spent two years engaging with communities all over the U.S. to explore how best to respond to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our political and civic life.

Its final and bipartisan report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, was released in June 2020 and includes six strategies and 31 ambitious recommendations to help the nation emerge as a more resilient democracy by 2026, the nation's 250th anniversary. 


The Report

The commission recently released a report called “Reinventing American Democracy for The 21st Century.” The report is the product of two years of study, research, and nearly 50 community meetings with hundreds of Americans from different demographic and political backgrounds all over the U.S.

To strengthen America's democratic institutions and civic culture, the report identifies a set of ambitious recommendations grouped among six strategies:

    1. achieve equality of voice and representation through our political institutions;
    2. empower voters in a sustainable way;
    3. ensure responsiveness of our political institutions;
    4. dramatically expand the capacity of civic organizations that foster bridge-building across lines of differences;
    5. build civic information structures that support common purpose; and
    6. inspire a culture of commitment to American constitutional democracy and to one another.


The Recommendations

In each of these six categories, the Report makes a total of 31 ambitious recommendations and sets out strategies for achieving them.

Examples are:

    1. institute universal voting and instant voter registration;
    2. establish an expectation of national service by all Americans; 
    3. limit Supreme Court justices to 18-year terms; 
    4. reduce the influence of big money in politics; 
    5. promote electoral reforms to increase representation and decrease hyper-partisanship
    6. increase the size of the House of Representatives by at least 50 members
    7.  and move Election Day to the Veterans Day national holiday.

The report is online at

For the organization’s history, activities and publications, see