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My Fellow Citizens,

No one wants to waste willpower. In these volatile political times, we all have stories of how we have refused to participate in today’s most vexing moments.

You resisted calling out the misinformation your dad’s colleague cited authoritatively at a dinner party. You “walked away” from a flame war on social media. You have put your concerns on mute for the sake of hosting the next family get-together. 

These are not small acts. They take willpower. Kelly McGonigal has made it her cause to help us all better understand how willpower works. What we refuse to do matters. That’s the form of willpower we all know. What we do, especially what we do in the name of achieving what we want, matters too. That's the part we lose hold on when avoiding these frequent invitations to join the partisan fray. 

McGonigal sorts acts of willpower into three categories: I won’t, I will, and I want. Staying consistent in either of the first two categories requires focusing on the last one, what you want to achieve. McGonigal also explains how constant calls to resist bad behavior can overwhelm the system and deplete what you have on reserve for continuing to exercise willpower in any of those categories. 

Use your willpower to survive a scroll through social media. You now have less of it the next time your mom mentions something outrageous she saw on the news. You have less of it when a co-worker cites bad science as equal to good science. Most importantly, you have less of it to persevere in the good work you do in service to change you want to see. 

There’s good news, too. It’s the science that motivated us to create our Learning Studio. Acts of willpower are contagious. Spending time with people committed to exercising their “I will” and “I want” power builds your strength for those acts of willpower. 

I'm excited about the events planned for the Learning Studio over the next couple of months. There should be a number of good conversations to bring us together and help us focus on what keeps us fired up. 

Let's keep thinking together,


P.S. Do you LOVE Congressman John Lewis or SUPER LOVE LOVE him?

I couldn't stop thinking about him while writing this note. I wrote about him when making an inquiry about "civic grit." He might be the best "willpower role model" serving in Congress today.

Does someone else come to mind? Hit reply and send me your nomination!
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Questions of Civic Proportions

What do the politics of willpower that wants better look like?

Join the Conversation

(share your answers in our Learning Studio)

Women want politics that reflect who they are

In the past, the American National Elections Survey always found that young men are more politically active than young women. That changed in 2018. We see the difference it makes when we start counting how many women are running for office and how many of them have won. Win or lose, women participating more at all levels of politics have forced us to think harder about how we evaluate female candidates and determine what’s at the top of the agenda.

It all comes together in one of this week’s viral moments. Notre Dame Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw won the championship and then responded to questions about her resistance to hiring male coaches for her staff: 
“I'm getting tired of the novelty of ... the first female governor of this state. The first female African-American mayor of this city." McGraw added, "When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception? How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future? We don't have enough female role models. We don't have enough visible women leaders. We don't have enough women in power.”

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants us to respond to terrorist attacks with know-how

She made headlines by refusing to use the Christchurch attacker’s name. Ardern’s concern for denying notoriety to these extremists follows the data we have on how these events work to influence future events. A new article heavy with data visualizations from the New York Times shows how the Internet connects these individuals to identify with a “white collective.” Each new act of domestic terrorism contributes to a global trend. White extremism is on the rise, and the attacks continue to get more deadly. 


Captain America Chris Evans wants to make it easier to listen to both sides (and trust what you’re hearing)

CNN got the scoop. They spotted Chris Evans on Capitol Hill talking to lawmakers. He has a new project under development, a website called “A Starting Point” where you will be able to find “digestible information” from lawmakers themselves about the issues that matter to them. He imagines this trusted source will reduce partisanship and promote respectful discourse. All the facts on facts suggest they rarely work to change our minds but who wants to argue with Captain America? Not our lawmakers and certainly not me! 
*The "join the conversation" link at the top of Questions of Civic Proportions will take you to Politicolor's online learning studio. You will need to be a member to access the content, but it's free. Use this button to check it out and request an invite.
Join the Learning Studio

Have you weighed in on these conversations yet?

🗳️ Add your vote to our survey about keeping the Electoral College.

We added a quick poll to the Learning Studio after our last QCP email. So far there is little support for a national popular vote but there's still plenty to talk about on this. 

🔎 Take a closer look at what President Eisenhower understood about extremism and how it works.

We talked about Eric Hoffer's book, "The True Believer" last time. We shared a NYT article on Facebook that gives more background information and explains how the most troubling movements reflect a loss of faith in ourselves. Our Learning Studio community also picked up the news that our Department of Homeland Security recently reassigned analysts who had been able to focus on combating domestic terrorism. 

📖 Learn more about the books motivating this month's theme More Power Together. 

This is a time like no other for getting involved in a movement. Many educators and community organizers want to do more to help people understand what works and what doesn't. It's all about the limits of willpower and managing expectations. We're pulling together a number of good reads in the Learning Studio so we can all share what we know. 

We could also use more  book recommendations on Facebook. If you've read something recently that's made you think, please drop in and tell us about it. 

Good Work: NYC's The Shed Creates a Place for Artistic Invention

A new space opened in New York’s Hudson Yards this weekend. The Shed has a new take on many questions plaguing the city. As the project seeks to support collaborative creative processes, a couple of their questions transcend the concerns of urban planners, architects and event producers. 

Talking to artists, curators, and venue owners about the latest trends, the architects of The Shed heard that today’s technology has enabled “artists working across disciplines” to create work “that didn’t fit neatly into traditional institutions.” They sought to create a structure that could support “ambition and invention in all creative fields.” 

Their ambition included diversifying the audiences attending cultural events and hosting a wide variety of exhibits and performances. For their opening week, The Shed presents the Soundtrack of America, “a five-night concert series celebrating the unrivaled impact of African American music on contemporary culture.” Future events include a new show from Björk and shows selected from over 900 responses to their call for work from early-career artists. 

The team at The Shed wants to make sure everyone can find an event they want to see. Their mission as they describe it:
“By minimizing social and economic barriers to entry we’ll make a warm, welcoming space for innovation and unique artistic experiences. By offering access and insight into the creative process, we’ll forge deep bonds between our artists and our audiences. Driven by our belief that access to art is a right, and not a privilege, we’ll present exciting, engaging experiences for our communities and our time.”

The Shed invites us all to re-think how we bring art to our communities and make it possible for everyone to participate. 

Even the most civic-minded superheroes run low on willpower sometimes. Please consider sharing this email with a friend who is always ready for a good fight.

If you're that civic-minded superhero of a friend, this button is for you. 
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