Our Democracy Calls Us to Lead

Dear Coro Family,

We are all shaken by the mob violence that unfolded at the Capitol yesterday. It is an assault on our democratic institutions, public servants, and our electorate: an attack on our democracy. The disturbing actions in Washington, D.C., although dangerous and disruptive, will not change the outcome of the election or the fact that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the next President and Vice President. Our democracy will stand.

Time and again through our history, we’ve seen that thoughtful, committed civic leaders at every level and across all sectors of governance can work across differences and create meaningful change. The Coro community will step up to help our country move forward from this fractious moment and build a stronger, more inclusive, more equitable, and more peaceful democracy.

Coro was founded in the early 1940s to cultivate the courageous, values-based leadership that is essential to preserving and advancing our democratic principles.  Seeing the rise of authoritarianism, fascism, economic instability, militarism, and fearing the end of democracy, our founders asked these critical questions:

  • Can people govern themselves?
  • Can democracy arouse the kind of allegiance that totalitarian systems seemed to inspire?
  • Why are people so displeased with the governments they themselves have created?

From these questions, they created a program to further “more effective citizen involvement and more capable political leadership.” Eight decades later, we continue to train, support, and connect leaders to foster a thriving democracy and tackle society’s biggest challenges.

Our work to strengthen and build the connective tissue of democracy — self-awareness, critical thinking, inclusion, communication, and collaboration — has never been more vital. We have always known this is not easy work. But the bright vision of what is possible if we build this muscle as individuals, families, neighborhoods, communities, organizations, and government is what moves us forward. Let’s hold on to this promise as we move through this moment.

We know that the next two weeks are likely to be some of the most challenging our country has ever faced. Coro training focuses on asking hard questions of other people and of ourselves while critically analyzing and addressing the systems we interact with on a daily basis. This work cannot be done without addressing the destructive force of systemic racism. We see the threats of demagoguery in action. We see the stark difference in law enforcement response yesterday and the treatment of peaceful protestors outside the White House in June.

At the same time, we are on the precipice of celebrating our first woman Vice President, a woman of color. And soon we will celebrate the most diverse cabinet in the history of our country.

We have much work to do. On Thursday, January 21, the Coro Centers will host a national, interactive conversation devoted to activating civic leadership. Stay tuned for an invitation next week.

We urge you to use your Coro skills to practice inquiry and lean into self-awareness in the days and weeks ahead. As we process and move through these trying times, remember that Coro is also a community — we are here for each other.

Thank you for your continued support and leadership.

With gratitude,

Natalie Samarjian, President and CEO, Coro Southern California
Gregg Bishop, Interim Executive Director, Coro New York
Laney Whitcanack, CEO, Coro Northern California
Selena Schmidt, Executive Director, Coro Pittsburgh
Colin Dale, Program Director, St. Louis Coro Fellowship

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