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13 presidential centers unify in call for civility, protection of democracy

Thirteen presidential centers are calling for civility, protection of democracy and respect in political discourse, amid concerns over deepening national polarization in the United States.

In a statement published Thursday, 13 libraries, institutes and foundations dating back to former President Hoover said Americans have a strong interest in supporting democratic movements and human rights globally, as other free societies contribute to the United States’s “own security and prosperity.” 

The joint message emphasized debate and disagreement as a central feature of a “healthy democracy,” while noting “civility and respect in political discourse, whether in an election year or otherwise, are essential.” 

“Americans have a strong interest in supporting democratic movements and respect for human rights around the world because free societies elsewhere contribute to our own security and prosperity at home,” the statement reads. “But that interest is undermined when others see our own house in disarray.” 

Stressing the importance of compassion, tolerance, pluralism and respect towards others, the declaration called for the U.S. to strive toward a “more perfect union.” The coalition urged elected officials to lead by example and “govern effectively in ways that deliver for the American people.” 

The bipartisan statement is the first time the centers joined to make such a declaration. While it did not call out individuals, it signaled a growing concern about the country’s future and party line divides over hot-button issues, such as former President Trump’s ongoing legal battles.

poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, conducted last month before Trump was indicted for a fourth time in Georgia, found 85 percent of Democrats approve of the criminal charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith, compared with 47 percent of independents and just 16 percent of Republicans. 

The bipartisan statement was signed by the Hoover Presidential Foundation, the Roosevelt Institute, the Truman Library Institute, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the LBJ Foundation, the Richard Nixon Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, the Carter Center, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, the George & Barbara Bush Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, the George W. Bush Presidential Center and the Obama Foundation. The organizations all support presidential libraries created under the Presidential Library Act of 1955, along with the Eisenhower Foundation.

In an email to The Associated Press, the Eisenhower Foundation said it respectfully declined to sign the statement as there was no collective discussion between the groups before being invited to sign. 

The Associated Press contributed.

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