Editor's Desk

When French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville visited young America in the 1830s, he was impressed by various aspects, not the least of which was how readily individuals banded together to accomplish common goals when the need arose. The power of such associations, which de Tocqueville held as fundamental to a functioning democracy, were recounted in his work, Democracy in America.

“In the United States, as soon as several inhabitants have taken an opinion or an idea they wish to promote in society, they seek each other out and unite together once they have made contact. From that moment, they are no longer isolated but have become a power seen from afar whose activities serve as an example and whose words are heeded,” de Tocqueville writes.

Living within the United States, it may seem unusual to emphasize the importance of citizens creating associations to peacefully accomplish change within their communities or government, but at the time – with Europe in turmoil at the hand of tyrannical governments – it was a novel and noteworthy approach. The power of the citizens of the United States, outlined by the Bill of Rights, lay in their ability to challenge and improve their environments.

Today, Americans of all ages are working together at every level from local to national to attempt to produce change. Whatever our opinions may be of any given group, what remains true is that citizen-led initiatives were once a distinctly American phenomenon – and seeing them in action is part of our cultural heritage.    

 

Lura Jackson