Democracy Reignited: A Special Initiative of Florida Humanities

Democracy Reignited Special Initiative
Democracy Reignited Special Initiative

Questions? Contact:

Patricia Putman
Associate Director
[email protected]

In 2020, Florida Humanities launched “Democracy Reignited,” a new, multi-year civic engagement initiative created in partnership with non-profit organizations statewide. Through these partnerships, Florida Humanities is hosting a variety of public programs that promote a deeper understanding of American history and culture, examine our foundational documents and principles, and explore the connections between democracy, the humanities and an informed citizenry. A primary focus has been placed on conversation-based programs that bring diverse public audiences together for thoughtful discussions on challenging issues that both unite and divide us. “Democracy Reignited” will culminate in 2026 when our nation marks the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Upcoming Programs

Stay tuned for future virtual programs!

Watch Now, On-demand!

Resetting the American Table

After years of focus on volatile disagreements surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the organization Resetting the Table has broadened their attention to sharing their wisdom with those of us seeking a peaceful path through America’s cultural divide. On May 2, Resetting the Table CEO, Rabbi Melissa Weintraub joined us for our final Democracy Reignited program of the Spring season. The veteran peacebuilder and social entrepreneur has spent her career building transformative communication across divides, overcoming dehumanization and distrust, and working toward a shared society in both the U.S. and abroad.

The Soul of Civility with Alexandra Hudson

Alexandra O. Hudson finds the challenges to today’s civility dire, she thinks they are not new — and they are most definitely not about being more polite. Join Village Square for this inspiringly heartfelt and beautifully pitched argument that civility is not a luxury: it is necessary for the survival and flourishing of humankind.

Hudson is a writer, popular speaker, and the founder of Civic Renaissance, a publication and intellectual community dedicated to beauty, goodness and truth. She contributes to Fox NewsCBS NewsThe Wall Street JournalUSA TodayTIME MagazinePOLITICO Magazine, and Newsweek.

The Fragmentation of Everything with Jonathan Haidt

Dr. Jonathan Haidt delves into the profound impact of social media on democratic societies, dissecting the intricate web of challenges it poses to civic trust and civil discourse.

Dr. Haidt is a social psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He’s the author of four books, two of which became New York Times best sellers, including The Happiness Hypothesis, The Coddling of the American Mind, and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and the forthcoming The Anxious Generation.

Join or Die with Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett

Legendary political scientist and acclaimed author Robert D. Putnam teamed up with author Shaylyn Romney Garrett for a conversation on America’s decline in community connections over the last half-century. Facilitator Liz Joyner, founder and president of The Village Square, explored why the pair believe we should join a club and that the fate of America depends on it.

Putnam’s research on this topic was captured in his groundbreaking 2000 book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” and a 2023 documentary, “Join or Die,” tells the story and evolution of Putnam’s philosophy of “social capital.” Putnam and Garrett co-wrote “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again” (2020).

"The Way Out" with Peter Coleman

Columbia University’s Dr. Peter T. Coleman joined Florida Humanities and The Village Square on Sept. 7, 2023 to discuss how to find our way out of toxic polarization, his book  “The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization” and the “Starts With Us” initiative. Manu Meel, CEO of Bridge USA, joined Coleman in this deeply insightful and inspiring conversation.

Coleman is Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University where he holds a joint-appointment at Teachers College and The Earth Institute. Dr. Coleman directs the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. He is a renowned expert on conflict resolution and sustainable peace.

Chris Stirewalt: Broken News

Former Fox News Political Editor Chris Stirewalt joined Florida Humanities and The Village Square March 29, 2023 for an in-depth, but delightful conversation on his eye-opening book, “Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back.”

Stirewalt, currently the political editor of NewsNation, and former Tallahassee Democrat Publisher Skip Foster discussed the issues plaguing the news industry, the journalists role and how the public can become better consumers. Stirewalt is also the contributing editor and columnist for The Dispatch Media and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.”

Daryl Davis: Hate, Undone.

When Daryl Davis was 10, he did not understand hate yet. But, he was the only Black scout in a parade to honor Paul Revere’s ride to Concord when he began getting hit by bottles. It was then he formed a question in his mind he spent much of his life answering: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” Failing to find an answer in books and history, as an adult and an accomplished musician, he realized who better to ask than a member of the organization formed around the premise: the Ku Klux Klan. So began Davis’ extraordinary story, in which a Black man befriended over 200 KKK members, starting with a grand wizard. He detailed this incredible journey in his book, “Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan.”

During this powerful conversation on Feb. 9, 2023 with Florida Humanities Executive Director Nashid Madyun, learn how Davis’ improbable, impossible, openhearted journey can serve as a beacon of hope for us all.

Chloé Valdary: Theory of Enchantment

Treat people like human beings not political extractions. Criticize to lift up and empower, never to tear down and destroy. Root everything you do in love and compassion.

These are the “three laws of enchantment,” according to Chloé Valdary, founder of Theory of Enchantment — “an innovative framework for compassionate anti-racism that combines social-emotional learning (SEL), character development, and interpersonal growth as tools for leadership development in the boardroom and beyond.” On Dec. 1, 2022 Valdary, also a writer and lecturer, took us on journey through these concepts as our last speaker in the Florida Humanities and The Village Square 2022 “Democracy Reignited” series. In this virtual chat, Valdary shared her refreshing and humanizing approach to on how we can heal racial division inside ourselves, organizations and across society in general.

I Never Thought of It That Way with Mónica Guzmán

Ready to fight back against the confusion, heartbreak, and madness of a dangerously divided time? Then you’re in luck because journalist, author and Braver Angels’ Senior Fellow for Public Practice Mónica Guzmán joined Florida Humanities and The Village Square Oct. 27, 2022 to deliver brilliant, yet relatable solutions derived from her new book, “I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times.”

Through personal stories, research results and the shared passion of bridge building, facilitator Manu Meel, CEO of Bridge USA, and Guzmán, “a proud liberal daughter of conservative parents,” tapped into a beautiful conversation about the power of being curious, communicating through our values and concerns and how we must listen to and work with others across our political divide.

How to Have Better Political Conversations or: Ending this Zombie Apocalypse with Dr. Robb Willer

On Sept. 15, 2022, Dr. Robb Willer, director of the Polarization and Social Change Lab at Stanford University and a sociology professor, joined Florida Humanities and The Village Square as part of our Democracy Reignited speaker series. Dr. Willer studies social and psychological forces shaping Americans’ political attitudes. During his fascinating conversation with facilitator, Civic Health Project Executive Director Kristin Hansen, he shared insights on reducing polarization, bridging the ideological divide and how we can improve the way we talk politics using highly-related, scientifically-grounded methods.

Majority Minority with Justin Guest

On May 19, 2022 Florida Humanities and The Village Square hosted a special virtual event with Justin Gest, author and associate professor of policy and government at George Mason University. Gest, also a noted op-ed writer and news commentator, has written many books on the politics of immigration and demographic change, including the latest “Majority Minority” (Oxford University Press, March 2022). The book examines six societies across the world that have made the transition to when “one ethnic or racial group loses its numerical advantage to one or more other minority groups.”

Here, Gest is joined by BridgeUSA CEO Manu Meel for an incredibly engaging and thought-provoking conversation that explores one of the greatest societal challenges of our time and how Gest believes our country can best understand — and prepare for — the demographic phenomenon.

Can't-Miss Conversation! When the Stars Begin to Fall with Theodore R. Johnson

On March 31, 2022 Florida Humanities and The Village Square hosted a special virtual event with Dr. Theodore R. Johnson, Senior Fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, to discuss his debut book, “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America.” In it, the public policy scholar and military veteran delivers an optimistic, but honest and raw look at how we all can walk a path toward a multiracial national solidarity. Florida Humanities Executive Director Nashid Madyun joined Johnson for an incredibly compelling, must-watch conversation exploring the parallels between Johnson’s book and the challenging times we live in and issues that are dividing us

A Must Watch! A Defense of Truth with Jonathan Rauch, facilitated by Aaron Sharockman

Facilitated by Aaron Sharockman, Executive Director of PolitiFact, based at the Poynter Institute.

Online trolls and political disinformation. Cancel culture and Twitter pile-ons. We’re living in a time when truth itself is under perpetual assault by growing numbers of our fellow citizens (and more than a few Russian bots) who simply don’t want to believe anything that they — well — didn’t already want to believe. This rising tide of illiberalism from across the political spectrum has many of us yammering on until we turn blue about respectful disagreement and the marketplace of ideas. But what if defenders of truth are missing the most fundamental conceptual revolution at the very core of this American experiment and the enlightenment — of western civilization itself? Jonathan Rauch connects our past to our present challenge as he introduces us to “The Constitution of Knowledge” — the extraordinary system of how we flawed humans gain knowledge that scales and endures. Rauch argues we must know the constitution of knowledge exists if we are to have any hope of defending it.

In case you missed it! Our Declaration: An evening with Dr. Danielle Allen

Dr. Danielle Allen, Harvard University Professor, classicist, and political scientist, and author of “Our Declaration,” a book about this critical moment in the future of building a multiracial democracy, joined us at a time when the future of American democracy is under threat from across the political spectrum and a disturbingly high number of citizens seem to no longer believe in the American project. Dr. Allen’s body of work thrillingly affirms the continuing relevance of America’s founding text, ultimately revealing what democracy actually means and what it asks of us. Part democracy’s orator and part its master mechanic, Dr. Allen is uniquely equipped to guide us to the other side of our current crisis of faith in democracy. This important conversation was offered in partnership with The Village Square and facilitated by Florida Humanities Executive Director, Dr. Nashid Madyun.

Watch Now! High Conflict: An Evening With Amanda Ripley

New York Times bestselling author and award-winning investigative journalist Amanda Ripley joined us to offer up a brilliant and frame-shifting understanding of conflict from the most distant political conflict to the most intimately personal conflict in our closest relationships from her most recent book “High Conflict: Why We Get Stuck and How We Get Out.” As Amanda introduces us to compelling people in high conflict situations in this life-changing book, we learn how very human it is for us to let the unique dynamics of high conflict take over, and the dire consequences of doing so. Lucky for us Amanda also hands us ingenious and easy-to-implement ways out.

FORUM Magazine

The Democracy Issue is a thoughtful look at the still-relevant lessons of the Declaration of Independence today, and experience how democracy plays out in our state – from dramatic moments in Florida’s history to our evolving constitutions, to how we vote, participate and learn to talk civilly to one another across our political divides.

Read The Democracy Issue Online

Village SquareCast Podcast Series

In partnership with Florida Humanities, The Village Square has produced a series of podcasts that include a specially curated set of throwback episodes as well as new, original episodes!

Never miss an episode!
Subscribe below.


Digital Resources

Tampa Bay Times | Newspaper In Education: Democracy Reignited

Grade levels: Middle and High school

Democracy requires sharing power with people you may not know, trust or agree with. Of course, there is a diversity of thought and ideals. The American Experiment is aspirational and assumes that the optimism of the human spirit propels people forward. The ultimate questions are: What does it take for a free people to govern themselves? Are we up to the task? Learn about the origins of the American experiment and what it takes to be an engaged citizen in this publication, produced in partnership with Florida Humanities.

Visit Tampa Bay Times | Newspaper in Education
Newspapers in Education, Democracy Reignited

We Hold These Truths…from the Spring 2020 FORUM Magazine

An essay by a noted Harvard scholar and author on what we can learn from the Declaration of Independence today. By Danielle Allen.

Download We Hold These Truths
We hold these truths…An essay by a noted Harvard scholar and author on what we can learn from the Declaration of Independence today. By Danielle Allen.

Smithsonian Institution | SITES: American Democracy Digital Resources

In honor of the Smithsonian traveling exhibitions American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith and Voices and Votes: Democracy in America SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations are highlighting a diverse array of the Smithsonian’s digital resources that engage audiences around voting, elections, civic engagement, and citizenship.

Access American Democracy Digital Resources
SITES is proud to be the Smithsonian’s ambassador and emissary through traveling and virtual exhibits.
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