Sharing Our Stories of Hope

As the 350th anniversary of democracy in America approached, Peyton Chen decided to initiate her own democracy project. She created a website where she invited her friends from her various social media sites to share a story of how they contribute to American democracy. She challenged her friends to

  • To go beyond the obvious in their stories (e.g. voting is critical but not enough)
  • To inspire their friends to contribute their own stories on the website
  • To continue adding to their stories as they joined with others who contributed to democracy in a similar way.

She hoped that the website would encourage others to think about democracy in all its dimensions. She never expected the response she received. The website brought out a yearning for democratic ideals that seemed to be waiting for an outlet. Just reading the stories made you proud of your fellow citizens. Hope had replaced fear. Pride had replaced anger. Generosity of spirit had replaced hatred.

Schools built the website into their civics classes. Organizations adopted submissions to the website as part of their annual plans. Groups formed across the country with similar interests in specific democracy projects. The concept of democracy itself took on a more expansive prospective.

In her State of the Union speech, the President said this: “Every day when I wake up, I spend 30 minutes reading some of the democracy stories that were submitted from the previous day. They inspire me, they give me hope, and they challenge me to live up to the oath I took when I became President. I would ask Peyton Chen to come forward so that I can present her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I hope I can accomplish as much in my Presidency as she has done for our democracy.” The applause from both sides of the aisle was the longest anyone could ever remember in a State of the Union address.

As we bemoan the tawdry nature of social media, we need to think about how it could bring out the best in us by sharing our stories of hope for our democracy. All of us need to be inspired. And the best way to do that is to share stories of how each of us can give back to the democracy we live in. President Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” That line has become one of the most famous of all lines in inaugural addresses. Unfortunately the question he posed has gone unanswered. It’s time to provide an opportunity for each of us to share our answers.

Who might become the Peyton Chen of this message and begin the process of witnessing for our democracy? Just imagine the stories of democracy that might emerge? Just imagine the multiple impacts of these stories on the issues we face as a nation?

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“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.”
– Robert McKee (Author and Story Consultant)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.