The National Commission on Civic Renewal, A Nation of Spectators

In 1997, the National Commission on Civic Renewal published its report, A Nation of Spectators: How Civic Disengagement Weakens America and What We Can Do About It. The Commission was partly a response to Robert Putnam’s 1995 article, “Bowling Alone.” The Pew Charitable Trust funded and convened it, and Bill Galston directed it, with me as the research director. My main contribution was an Index of National Civic Health (INCH), which is one ancestor of today’s Civic Health Index.

There may have been an echo of the report in George W. Bush’s Inaugural Address: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” (Quoted without comment on what followed.)

One of the recommendations was a research center on youth civic engagement, which we founded in 2001 as CIRCLE.

In 1997, the Internet was up and running, and we maintained a website for the Commission and its report. But that is long gone and the report is hard to find. So here it is, scanned as a PDF, as one record in the history of professional efforts to strengthen civic engagement in the USA.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.