Declaration of Independence, A Reading

The year 2020 will likely be defined by the challenges and firsts that we have overcome in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As venues around Wyoming were forced to cancel perennial Fourth of July celebrations, Wyoming Humanities joined together with Wyoming Public Media and the Wyoming Community Foundation to present  “Live From Wyoming: 4th of July.” This live-streamed and radio broadcast allowed Wyomingites to celebrate apart but together. As a component of this, Wyoming Humanities brought together over 30 individuals from around the state to collaboratively read the Declaration of Independence via Zoom – a sign of the unique challenges faced in current events, but also as a sign of hope.

This document serves as the foundation of democracy, and, although imperfect, it is a symbol of our nation and the goals we have yet to realize. The words and ideals sought out by our founding fathers have not faded; they ring just as true more than 200 years later. But contained within the text are signs of our imperfection: flaws which need to be addressed: and a history that allows us to reflect on where we have been and how much further we might yet go until its precepts are reached.

While this video is a celebration of our state and the birth of our nation, it is also an introduction to some of our upcoming work and programming: “Democracy and the Informed Citizen.” Together with the imminent release of Democracy Under Construction (below), we will explore the concepts and roles of an informed citizenry and media in a democracy. In 1776, John Dunlap worked through the night to print 200 hundred copies of the Declaration of Independence before the first public reading took place. Today, in 2020, the news media can disseminate information in seconds to millions. The information, however, is still of critical importance to us in a democratic nation. We hope you enjoy the video, reflect on its contents, and will keep an eye out through the rest of 2020 and into 2021 as we investigate the role of journalism and information in these United States.

Democracy under construction

The Federation of State Humanities Councils (FSHC) with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $34,793 to Wyoming Humanities (WYH) to help Wyomingites better understand the history and current issues impacting democracy in the U.S., with emphasis on how journalism shapes our nation’s democratic state. This is the second WYH project funded under the FSHC’s Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative.

This initiative will ask Wyomingites to explore democracy as it was originally shaped by our founders and journalism’s role in promoting and protecting democracy. We will explore partisanship and whether a lack of civility is impacting Americans’ ability to think critically about social and political issues and how it might be impacting our perception of the news. This initiative will feature a new publication by WYH, Democracy Under Construction, a reader that will explore issues that have influenced democracy in our nation and state. Other parts of the project will help Wyomingites better understand how journalism affects democracy and provide guidance on how to consume news critically in this era.

Democracy Under Construction book cover

"This new volume was partially funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the "Democracy and the Informed Citizen" initiative to which every state council could apply for funds to support projects that examine the connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism and an informed citizenry. As part of our project in Wyoming, we explored the issue of civility in journalism and social media and how it is eroding the public trust in the institutions of democracy."

"Democracy Under Construction" will soon be available for distribution. Stay tuned! For questions regarding the book, please email ask@thinkwy.org.

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