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Fighting to Understand

Let's see. ... The Constitution still works. Capitalism still works. Americans even agree on many basic human values. Yet something is amiss. It is as if we have forgotten how to be We The People. We will explain.

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Workshop: Fast, Easy, and Free Data Tools for Your Work

Organizer: Open Gov Hub

Fast, Easy, and FREE: Using Kaggle, BigQuery, and DataStudio to Solve Problems in Four Hours or Fewer." A short session on how to use some fantastic tools to actually DO something worthwhile for your organization. We will practice a range of skills via structured small group interactions.

Location: OpenGov Hub, 1110 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC

Facts, Fake News & the Media

Organizer: Common Ground Committee

In a time of intense political division, is it still possible for the public to turn to the media to gain a shared understanding of facts? Common Ground Committee, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering civil public discourse in politics, is honored to partner with the Columbia University School of Journalism to welcome New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and Fox News correspondent Chris Wallace to an important conversation on the role we all play in moving the country forward through our most explosive era of modern journalism.

Location: Joseph D. Jamail Lecture Hall, 3rd Floor Of Pulitzer Hall, 2950 Broadway, New York, NY

Ted Wetzel

"Although there are quite a lot of common values among us Americans, I continue to be amazed that even after my 200th interview, the one after that always added a new insight."

Meet the reformer: Ted Wetzel, who's got civic secrets to share

A lifelong resident of the Cleveland area, Ted Wetzel is an engineer who spent five years at a Fortune 500 company, 17 years in marketing and management at smaller manufacturers, and then 11 years as a small-business owner before turning to his passion project. He created Fighting to Understand to spread the message that civic education and a collaborative spirit among everyday Americans can restore the core values of a democratic republic for the next generation. With a diverse group of 18 collaborators, in October he self-published the first edition of a book now titled "9 Secrets for Avoiding Divided We Fall" and is working on a plan for widespread distribution this spring. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less.

Most people don't want freedom; they would settle for a just master. (I'm not sure who to attribute this verse to.)

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"Misleading speech is the essential element of despots, because despots need the support of the people," argues Lawrence Torcello.

Why tyranny could be the inevitable outcome of democracy

Torcello is an associate professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Plato, one of the earliest thinkers and writers about democracy, predicted that letting people govern themselves would eventually lead the masses to support the rule of tyrants.

When I tell my college-level philosophy students that in about 380 B.C. he asked "does not tyranny spring from democracy," they're sometimes surprised, thinking it's a shocking connection.

But looking at the modern political world, it seems much less far-fetched to me now. In democratic nations like Turkey, Great Britain, Hungary, Brazil and the United States, anti-elite demagogues are riding a wave of populism fueled by nationalist pride. It is a sign that liberal constraints on democracy are weakening.

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