Strengthening our Democracy through Civic Engagement

by Swearer Center Staff
January 7, 2021

Yesterday, the United States experienced a harrowing day in our country’s history. The Swearer Center staff condemns the violence and the attempt to undermine our democratic values by rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Like our legislators last evening who continued to certify the election results despite an unprecedented threat, we will pause, but will not be deterred. We will take a moment for reflection and learning, and then refocus on expanding our ongoing civic engagement efforts. We invite you to join us.

At Swearer, our civic engagement work includes facilitating the voting process for students, educating about elections around the world, advocating for justice, working with colleagues on campus and at partner organizations, engaging experts and practitioners to deepen our understanding of critical issues, and facilitating difficult, important, and necessary conversations. It also includes racial equity work. The ongoing interplay of racism, white supremacy, voter suppression and participation, police response, media involvement, and political action and reaction in evidence in this country will be studied and discussed for many years. It’s important that we embrace these conversations and opportunities for co-learning and sustained action to strengthen the democratic process. We will continue to partner with communities both within and outside Brown to engage with us in this crucial work, and we invite you to share any thoughts, suggestions, or questions via [email protected].

The Swearer Center community has deep connections to our nation’s capital and our democracy. Each year, dozens of our students participate in Brown in Washington programs, working in the halls of Congress, with think tanks, nonprofits, and city offices. Brown Votes, a nonpartisan, student-led, Swearer-supported initiative, conducts and coordinates efforts to improve voter registration, voting participation, and civic engagement. Their herculean efforts over the last year inspired more people at Brown to be involved in the voting process. Many of our students, partners, and faculty also engage in advocacy and related research. 

Each person who has participated in civic engagement work in any way has invested a part of themselves in our shared democratic ideals, which is part of why yesterday’s events were so jarring to many of us personally. The law enforcement response at the Capitol compared to the response to participants in Black Lives Matter rallies in D.C. just months ago also displayed yet again the ways in which white people and people of color are treated differently. We recognize the pain and anger many in our community are feeling as a result. We see you, and invite you to join us in community and civic engagement to address the fundamental, inseparable link between racial and social justice. 

Yesterday, as members of Congress defied the rioters to certify the election, we witnessed the resilience of our democracy. At the Swearer Center, again and again, we have witnessed the resilience and power of community. Together, we will work to advance racial and social justice as we strive to strengthen our democracy.