If you’re in Tallahassee and want to attend Thursday night’s Tallahassee Town Hall, click here.

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat (print edition only):

rachel redcoatWhen it comes to getting things done in a country, there were actually some advantages to having a king.

If a kingdom had a problem, a good king could send for the most brilliant scholars in the land, commission them to scribble mathematical formulas into the wee hours, apply his royal intellect and issue an edict. Of course, there were the bad kings and the heads that rolled… which, more or less, gets us to where the American story begins.

As they went about the business of building a country without a king, our founding fathers had more than a little trouble agreeing with each other. Democracy turns out to be a pretty sloppy business. But no matter how unpleasant they found it, the framers never had the luxury to avoid the difficult conversations.

There was every reason to think they would fail – the notion that a diverse people could self-govern was a nearly insane idea at the time. Still, the founders did more that believe we could muddle our way through our diversity; they bet our future that diversity of opinion could become a strength for their new country.

They designed our form of government around that bet.

In America, political foes become partners in ensuring “deliberation and circumspection” as they engage in order to govern. This clashing of opinion creates a competition of ideas that deepens thinking, sharpens solutions & moderates extremes. James Madison saw the Bill of Rights as a “mere parchment barrier” compared to the power of this factionalism to check the power of the majority and insure freedom for the minority.

So, despite the differences between the framers and the odds against them, in this new country the king was no longer the seat of power – it was now the humble town square. This was the unlikely place where our first citizens went about the business of building a country “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Almost 250 years later, that’s exactly what you’ll find Thursday night, when the Village Square, the Tallahassee Democrat and Leadership Tallahassee join forces to host the fourth annual Tallahassee Town Hall. It’s free and open to the public (go to tallahassee.tothevillagesquare.org to print your ticket). You’re invited to bring take-out and a drink, roll up your sleeves and dive into our local conversation of democracy.

Facilitated by the publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat, Skip Foster, the program is at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown.

Joining the panel are Leon County Commissioners Mary Ann Lindley, Nick Maddox and Kristin Dozier; and from the City of Tallahassee, Mayor Andrew Gillum and Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

The program will be live-streamed at Tallahassee.com and you can even tweet your questions from home – in your slippers if you like (a cool freedom George Washington might not have imagined).

Sure, navigating hometown democracy probably isn’t your first choice on how to spend an evening. But if you come by St. John’s Thursday night, we hope you’ll take a moment to consider that you’ll be at the very heart of what makes us America.

A kind and intelligent ruler might not do a bad job deciding how things should run in our hometown, but there is no king; there will be no writ from on high. It’s up to people like us in this place we call home to care about the city we share.


Liz Joyner is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Village Square, dedicated to reviving civil discourse across the partisan divide. Created in Tallahassee in 2006, the Village Square now has five locations nationally. Contact Liz at liz@tothevillagesquare.org


IF YOU GO info:

OUR TOWN Tallahassee Town Hall
Thursday, February 19th
5:30 to 7:30 pm
Free and open to the public
St. John’s Episcopal Church
211 N Monroe Street, downtown Tallahassee
For more information or to reserve your seat http://www.tallahassee.tothevillagesquare.org
Watch livestream at Tallahassee.com
Stay for dessert and coffee after the program