Crosscurrents is a small group of citizens with very diverse views across the political spectrum who meet regularly to dialogue about current public policy topics. We seek agreement on sound solutions to public problems. We have published these agreements in local newspapers to demonstrate that productive dialogues can take place among citizens with diverse views.
Recently, our group embarked on a series of dialogue sessions to determine if we could identify and reach agreement on a core set of values that we share as Americans. This effort is important now because Americans have become highly polarized, and this disunity has disabled our democracy and raised doubts that we have any values in common anymore. To begin our inquiry, we asked each member of our Crosscurrents group to identify their cherished values.
Working separately, we identified 81 concepts that could be narrowed to 45 ideas. We further examined these concepts and placed similar ideas in 20 categories. Additional scrutiny showed that some were more fundamental and encompassed others. Thus, we discarded some categories and merged others into a set of four fundamental values that we agreed were among our most important. These four are:
• Enjoyment of freedom from oppression and freedom to fulfill each person’s potential.
• Belief in equality and opportunity for all.
• Pursuit of financial security and well-being.
• Commitment to community and the common good.
These values are articulated in key documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and reaffirmed in countless documents and speeches since then.
Since the founding of the United Sates, our country has never fully realized these shared ideals, but we celebrate the substantial progress our nation has made, and these values continue to serve as our guiding principles. We cling to these principles even as we may disagree vigorously about their more specific meaning and the best way to implement them.
Our Constitution, which gave birth to our democracy, makes it possible for us to have these necessary conversations, keeping competing values in check and balancing them in making needed trade-offs. It stands paramount among the enduring legacies we share as Americans. It is the second oldest such governing document among nations. It has combined constancy in protecting the rights of our people even as it has flexed over 233 years to accommodate new understanding of those rights and government’s role in the American Experiment. Our Constitution is historically unique and quintessentially American.
Our original national motto was “E pluribus unum (out of many, one),” an aspiration echoed in the Preamble’s phrase, “to form a more perfect Union.” We know from the Founders that “united we stand and divided we fall.” Put another way, we are all passengers on the same ship of state and our fates are linked regardless of our political leaning. For this reason, we all have a large stake in rediscovering and refocusing on our common ground and shared interests.
The result of this Crosscurrents effort reminds us that common ground exists in shared values of freedom, equality, financial security, and community.
Our common ground can also serve as the needed springboard to reach agreement on what course of action we as a people should take in helping to solve our public problems and rehabilitate our democracy.
The Crosscurrents group is interested in growing to help increase its credibility and impact. To learn more about the group or to join, contact Roger Bernier at firstname.lastname@example.org