Democracy QuickBites

In a time of global pandemic, climate crisis, and racial injustice, it is more important than ever that we stay engaged with the hard work of protecting and strengthening democracy. Democracy QuickBites are designed to keep us asking and searching for answers to questions such as:

  • What are we learning about ourselves as a nation and a world during this pandemic?
  • What threats and opportunities related to democracy are particularly relevant right now?
  • How can we address the glaring inequities that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored and exacerbated?
  • In what sense are public institutions (public schools, public libraries, etc.) central to democracy?
  • What role can the arts play in helping democracy flourish?
  • Are there any moments in history that are particularly instructive for the challenges we are currently facing as a democracy?

To kick off the Democracy QuickBites initiative, we invited public servants, artists, writers, government officials, educators, students, alumni, and others to respond to the prompts above in short videos that encourage reflection and further conversation. Please take a moment to watch and reflect on their submissions. Then consider some of the options below for deepening your own engagement.

Democracy QuickBites Videos

Joyce Vance ’82: Good Leadership

Paul Giamatti and Maggie Siff: What is the Connection Between Art and Democracy?
Join Giamatti and Siff as they discuss their role as actors, the future of our democracy, and the long-lasting effects the pandemic will have on our world. Art is something that is truly unique yet captures the human experience. They focus on the importance of understanding the adversities individuals face; emphasizing the need for art that envelops the viewer in empathy.

Michael Sargent: A Free and Independent Press
Freedom of press is essential within democracy to know what those with power do in the name of their citizens. Follow along as Sargent retells a 2017 New York Times article written by Kevin Sack. Sargent uses this article as one example of how the press allows for deeper insight into issues that the general public might not be aware of. Sargent deftly stresses that journalism that is unaltered by government is an essential part of a functioning democracy.

Tae Chong: Citizens Making Change
Chong lays out how COVID 19 has exacerbated the unfortunate realities of the working poor in communities across the country. He questions how a nation driven by capitalist practices can continue to push for profit while millions of Americans struggle to find jobs, pay bills, and feed themselves. He stresses the need for people to question how governments support their citizens and to vote, especially if people want to see change.

Bob Goodlatte: Staying in Touch with Your Government
Federal, state, and local officials are elected to serve in the public’s best interest. Goodlatte reminds us of the importance of reaching out to these officials and making our voices heard as it allows elected officials to understand what their constituents are facing and aids them in providing solutions.

Perla Figuereo: Perspective-Taking through the Arts
Artists can create works that focus on uplifting an individual’s experience, and often this perspective is unique from that of the viewer’s own lived experience. Figuereo encourages us to step out of our comfort zones and watch, read, and engage with pieces of art (e.g. film, plays, etc.) that highlight stories with which we are not familiar. In doing so she hopes we gain a fresh perspective that helps us contribute to a more equitable world via our power to vote for elected officials, ballot measures, and public policies.

Travis Palmer: Citizens Finding Their Voice
Palmer speaks to the realities that COVID-19 has created in exacerbating the long-standing, education-related inequalities that reside within his community of rural Maine.  Now with students and parents at home, there is a marked rise in food insecurity and a lack of access to broadband connectivity and health care. These are only some of the adversities communities across the country are facing, and Palmer stresses the importance of using our voices to call for justice.

Senator Angus King: Shared Decision Making
Senator King invites viewers to consider which dimension of government should be making big decisions like reopening the economy and providing COVID-19 testing. He suggests that while state governments have a better handle on specifics, the federal government has a vital role to play in generating general plans of action. Understanding and appreciating the distinctive spheres of action with government is crucial to good decision-making and a functioning democracy.

Joseph Jackson: Challenging Unjust Structures
The Black Lives Matter movement, established in 2013, has seen a recent surge of support after the fatal death of George Floyd in May of 2020. In this short but powerful video, Jackson reflects on his own life as a formerly incarcerated black man who has waited a lifetime to hear that his life matters. 

Lebanos Mengitsu: Working for Equity
Mengitsu, who is co-president of the Bates College student body, acknowledges that people coming together to support one another has been essential during COVID-19. Still, he brings to light that historically marginalized communities have fallen through the cracks.

Continue Your Involvement

Submit Your Own Democracy QuickBite

The Democracy QuickBites series is designed to cultivate the generous sharing of ideas about how democracy can flourish in this time, with the idea that each video could spark productive discussion among diverse people. Strong convictions, diverse perspectives, and sensitivity to a diverse audience are welcome.

Bates students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents are welcome to submit videos (30 seconds to 3 minutes long) for possible inclusion in this series by sending them to Kristen Cloutier at the Harward Center.