A Message from Carnegie Council: Democracy Threatened and Renewed

January 7, 2021

The siege of the U.S. Capitol by a rampaging mob marks one of the darkest days in the nation's history. The U.S. has suffered attacks from enemies foreign, but never before have enemies domestic engaged in riots and insurrection urged on by a sitting president.

This America on display is not the America the world has watched with wonder and respect since the Constitution was ratified in 1789, beginning one of the world's greatest and longest-lasting experiments in representative democracy. 

The shocking images of shameful looting and the desecration of the U.S. Capitol will linger for years, etched in imaginations as vividly as the attacks on Pearl Harbor and on 9/11. But as powerful as the images of physical violence are, the violence done to America's democratic institutions may run deeper and last longer, undermining their very foundations. 

It will be no easy task to undo the damage to our nation's institutions. But this process can advance if leaders and citizens are called to account to look beyond personal ambition and serve a higher purpose—one rooted in ethical reflection and practice.

Carnegie Council is committed to the rigorous pursuit of truth, to engaging with all of you to pursue with integrity the values and interests that hold us together rather than those that drive us apart.

We have always believed that democracy, with all its imperfections, is an essential endeavor, never complete. History shows us that the experiment in democracy has always been difficult, so we should not expect a free ride today or into the future. What makes democracy exceptional is its openness and its capacity for self-correction.

Ethical action is a powerful force for good. If we can make ethical choices today, we give humanity a future worthy of the name. We begin this year a new chapter—a low moment, but one that offers the possibility of reconciliation and renewal. 

The need is urgent; the moment is now. Join us in re-dedicating ourselves to using the power of ethics to build a better world.

Stephen D. Hibbard
Chairman, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

Joel H. Rosenthal
President, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

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