This event has already taken place. This article was published on November 1, 2021.
Six months ago, the University’s Faculty Senate formally recognized the Tuesday following the first Monday of November — the date of American federal and (often) state elections — as an academic holiday. This year on Tuesday, Nov. 2, classes, sections and labs are canceled, and instructors are encouraged to refrain from assigning homework or assessments. In place of academic commitments, we invite you to celebrate Stanford’s inaugural Democracy Day.
This fall, on the first Democracy Day ever, a dedicated group of students and staff — including the President’s Office, the Haas Center for Public Service and people across campus — have put together a slate of fun, engaging programming intended to promote democratic engagement, citizenship and community-building. Stanford affiliates will have the opportunity to hear from faculty about the dangers facing democracy, participate in intimate dinner discussions, take part in a deliberative poll and more.
The events incorporate a wide range of perspectives, and we believe everyone will find something with which they resonate on Democracy Day. Indeed, that’s the goal: research has shown that voting and engagement are habit-forming. Universities have an obligation to foster the civic education of those under their care, and we foster that civic engagement best by connecting democratic values to folks’ everyday lives and interests.
In future years, we envision a Democracy Day that brings the entire Stanford community together and forms the foundation of new campus traditions and experiences. The program will serve as the focal point of a university-wide commitment to public service and good citizenship, a day entirely devoted to the betterment of the society we inhabit. We are excited to build off the successes and failures of this year, to iterate, improve and make Democracy Day the best it can be.
But it’s not enough to care about these issues for one day, even a day as important as this one. Now more than ever, democracy around the world needs global citizens who are kind and invested, thoughtful and involved. The last year has proven that society is more fragile than it appears. The crises facing humanity will not be untangled in these 24 hours, and progress — lasting progress — will take the efforts of a lot of driven people working really hard to make things better. It is our responsibility, individually and collectively, to be part of the solution.
So, this Democracy Day, we hope every member of the Stanford community finds something enjoyable and valuable in the program, whether you’re a student, staff member, instructor, administrator or alum. We hope you have thoughtful conversations, meet new friends and find joy in the celebration of democracy. We hope you come away from Democracy Day invigorated, excited and ready to live out good citizenship in whatever it is you do at Stanford.
But we also hope that the spirit of Democracy Day continues on long after the program ends. We hope the lessons learned, the relationships formed, and perspectives changed on Nov. 2 this year stay with you through your time at Stanford and beyond. More than anything, we hope this inaugural Democracy Day can usher in a new age of civic engagement at this place we love so much, holding us to our highest ideals and reminding us of the promise of universities like ours.
Our Founding Grant says that Stanford’s purpose is to “promote the public welfare … inculcating love and reverence for the great principles of government.” From the very beginning, the members of the Stanford community have been called, above all, to be good citizens. On our best days, that is who we are. This Democracy Day and every day, that is who we should aspire to be.