Thomas Wimberly. (2020). Realizing Democracy Demands Addressing Deeper Structural Roots of Failure and Possibility of Shared Power. Stanford Social Innovation Review
(Updated September 4, 2020, 13:20 HST)
Merriam Webster has five definitions of democracy: One, it is a “government by the people especially: rule of the majority; [a] government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections,” (Merriam Webster 2020). I am skipping the two and three definitions to avoid bias. But to continue: Four, “the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority,” (Merriam Webster, 2020). And five: “the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges,” (Merriam Webster 2020). I am sharing those most basic concepts and/or principles of democracy not because of ignorance neither a hasty presumption of unawareness. Rather, to remind those who may have forgotten the north star of the free world.
I am not a native of United States. I am an immigrant, who is originally from the Philippines. And although, it is considered a third world, it is a democratic country, which up to now many of our political and civic leaders continue to struggle to fight for the ideals that Americans have inspired us, Filipinos. Indeed, America is the greatest inspiration of the free world; but, likewise, other nations fighting for deprivation of liberty, justice, and equality, also those crying for abuse of authority are counting on the United States in countless of ways. Most importantly, we look up to Americans as role models who embody the greatest in human spirit: brave, bold, intelligent, compassionate, generous, always rallying and ever ready to battle–even to die–for a greater good. It is a sacred, noble calling that no American should ever take for granted.
Going back to the Philippines, sadly, poverty undermines democracy. It is the root of massive graft and corruption in our system of government. Correcting it seems forever to many of us, which is the very reason many Pinoys are either living and/or working abroad. And although it is our sad reality, we, Filipinos have a remarkable history defending democracy, when hand-in-hand we marched twice in peaceful protests against two former presidents, who we believed were existential threats to democracy. Guided by our faith as we are largely Catholics, we marched and vigil for days in Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in 1986 and 2001. Armed with rosaries and bravery to bring down dictators–together, we succeeded.
Because when democracy is in peril, people are under threats of their rights, of their rights to a better life, of their rights to speak and be heard, of their rights to vote, of their rights to equality and justice. Democracy is indispensible if we truly aspire world peace.
Of course, America is different from the Philippines. The left and right pundits may argue, I am comparing oranges to apples. However, that comparison only applies to wealth, to standard of living, to quality education; but, if we just stick to democracy; democracy is democracy. Democracy.
Democracy in the United States means liberty and justice for all. It is the breadth and depth of America’s soul.
Personally, in my English (rhetoric) class at the University of Hawai’i’s Kapiolani Community College in 2014, I had the privilege to recite the Gettysburg Address of United States former president Abraham Lincoln (as an academic requirement). Frankly, I used not to have an American dream (simply because, I had to leave my entire family in Manila to join my husband here in Hawai’i). However, that recitation led me to one. And that is to earn my JD (Juris Doctor) in an American institution and to be an attorney for the less privileged who are deprived of equal access to justice.
Regardless, please allow me to conclude by sharing to you the Gettysburg Address courtesy of Cornell University. May it continue to serve, guide, and inspire all Americans today, tomorrow, and beyond:
“President Lincoln delivered the 272 word Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,” (RMC, Cornell, 2020)
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Adams County, Pennsylvania
Merriam Webster. (2020)
The Nicholas H. Noyes Collection of Historical Americana in the Cornell University Library. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1951.
John Mason Potter. “The Gettysburg Address.” The Cornell Library Journal, Winter 1966, no. 1.
Rare and Manuscript Collection. (2020). Transcript of Cornell University Copy. Cornell University. Retrieved from https://rmc.library.cornell.edu/gettysburg
The Library of Congress