Can we deliver on the promise of democracy?


Maureen Roen

In advance of ASU’s inaugural Delivering Democracy Lecture on April 22, which will feature actor and humanitarian Forest Whitaker at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Republic ran a Viewpoints piece on April 20 by ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD) founding director Matthew Whitaker.

While offering views on the pulse of participatory democracy in Arizona, the piece also answered the question: Why Forest Whitaker?

“In addition to an acting career that has made him a cultural icon, Whitaker has established himself as an outspoken advocate for racial healing, peace, the rule of law and democracy,” said Matthew Whitaker, ASU Foundation Professor of History in the School of Letters and Sciences.

He says the Academy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor’s kickoff of this lecture series will help define and promote democratic principles and action for a new age. In his remarks, the actor/activist will especially try to inspire younger people to become more civically engaged.

“(Forest) Whitaker, by underscoring his international work on behalf of peace, civic engagement and universal political participation, will emphasize that which he and the CSRD consider to be the lifeblood of healthy democratic endeavors: an engaged, protected and educated population, especially the young; the decriminalization of the poor, communities of color and immigrants; socioeconomic opportunity; and unfettered access to the ballot box,” wrote Matthew Whitaker.

Arizonans want “a more civil, equitable and inclusive era of community engagement and political participation,” he said in the Viewpoints piece; “… one of the things that make our democracy so special is the ability of average people, lifted by hope and propelled by passion, to effect positive change. It is … young people and regular folk who challenge us to maximize our democratic potential.”

The sold-out lecture is sponsored by the CSRD's Premier Partner Arizona Public Service (APS).