Democracy Works: There Is No "I" In Democracy

May 31, 2021

Shaylyn Romney Garrett
Credit Photo Provided

From economic inequality to racial injustice and political polarization, the deck seems to be stacked against rebuilding America's social fabric. Our guest this week draws from history to offer the motivation necessary todo the hard work of democracy.

Shaylyn Romney Garrett is a writer, speaker and changemaker pursuing connection, community, and healing in a fragmented world. She is the co-author with Robert Putnam of "The UpSwing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again," which charts what the authors describe as the "I-We-I" curve in American democratic engagement and civic life. 

In the book and in this interview, Romney Garrett takes us back to the Gilded Age, another time when America was highly unequal and divided. We discuss the reforms that came out of that era and how it led to decades of a "we" culture that got us through war and economic hardship with a reimagined civil society.

These trends reversed throughout the 1970s and 80s, but Romney Garrett argues that we could be on the cusp of making a shift back to 'we" — if we're willing to put in the work to get there. As a social entrepreneur, she talks about some of the organizations and projects that she sees as starting down the path toward this transformation