On the up side, Liu said, "The United States today is not quite suicidal but it is definitely in a state of self-inflicted fragility." This is not a recent phenomenon but has been growing over the last forty years "of erosion of common purpose of the leaders of both parties and .....of devaluation of public education in general and civic education in particular."
We the people have ceded our collective power (the capacity to make people do what you would have them do) over the years to special interests, to those who have wealth and to corruptive influences. According to Liu, "Power doesn't so much corrupt as it reveals character." The good news is that Eric Liu is optimistic about the future:
"Despite the sickness of the body politic right now, let me tell you why I am so hopeful. In part, to be honest, it is because of the man who currently occupies the White House. After all, he alone, as he likes to say, he alone has sparked the greatest surge of civic engagement this country has ever seen. Millions of Americans are stepping off the sidelines and participating. .... People are swarming like antibodies to a virus … the immune system of the body politic is now kicking in. The goal now has to be civic renewal—we need a new network of mutual aid, civic, social and moral character."
How this can be done is by returning to the principles of John Dewey who believed that learning comes, not just from books, but by doing. Eric Liu embodies these principles and he is speaking to wake us up. Thus the teacher, the writer, and the citizen of a democracy are all practicing acts of faith, where learning and the thriving of a democracy become true through our best practices.
It will come, according to Dr. Liu, with the "savvy realization that we're all better off when we're all better off."