My name is Jeff Edelstein and I am the founder of the Campaign for Courage. I am a public-policy mediator and the author of From Oath to Action: Simple Acts of Courage to Rebuild American Democracy. For over twenty five years I have helped resolve contentious public-policy disputes for the federal government and cities and states throughout the U.S.
What led me to start the Campaign for Courage? Time and time again, I have seen opposing sides come together to solve important issues. I know how much potential there is for people to reach agreement, even when they thought it was impossible. But nearly all of this work took place at the agency level. In the places where the most important decisions are made - Congress, state legislatures, and city councils - our elected leaders are still often engaged in open warfare.
What’s more, time and time again, I have observed one compelling fact: the breakthroughs often come when one person steps forward courageously and takes action.
So I started thinking: what if we could get our elected leaders to step forward courageously and take action? One step at a time? One “simple act of courage” at a time? And I started thinking about what those acts could be. Because I felt it was important not just to ask politicians to be courageous, but to suggest offer them specific actions that prove it.
All of which led to publishing From Oath to Action. The book’s premise - which underlies the Campaign for Courage - is that our democracy desperately needs repair, and that the pathway to repairing it is through individual acts of courage by our nation’s leaders. Here is the preface from the book:
My goal in publishing From Oath to Action is to offer a new vision of what political leadership is, or could be, in the 21st century. At a time when so many Americans seem fed up with our political system, I wish to provide a ray of hope. We can rebuild our democracy. The path I suggest may take time, but it just might take us where we need to go.
From Oath to Action presents a rare political message. Put aside the exposés, screeds, and rants. They just feed the flames of partisanship. Put aside the manifestos seeking constitutional reform. They are mere pipedreams. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to fix our political institutions. We do. But institutions change only when the people in them change and most people change just one step at a time. Rather than cause for despair, however, that fact should be cause for hope. Because one step at a time is achievable.
Many who pursue public office have their hearts in the right place. They start out intending to do what’s right. Along the way, however, the system wears them down. Eventually their courage—their willingness to take on the system—gets lost.
But within nearly every politician, I believe, a spark of courage still burns. Courage to stop and listen. Courage to admit they don’t know all the answers. Courage to take action, even at the risk of failure.
What we, the American people, can do—what we must do—is to help re-ignite those sparks. Let us call for our leaders to rebuild our democracy, one simple act of courage at a time.
In the pages ahead, I suggest twelve such acts. They all have one thing in common: they require no new laws, no changes to the constitution, no fixing of congressional rules. Any politician can undertake any one of these acts any time they choose. All it takes is a little courage.
By the time you’ve finished this book, I hope you will be inspired to spread its message: share these ideas with friends, family and colleagues; contact your members of Congress; speak out publicly; or take whatever action suits you best. And I encourage you to offer up your own ideas for acts of courage to rebuild our democracy at www.fromoathtoaction.com. We’re all in this together. I invite you to join this endeavor.
And thus, I have launched the Campaign for Courage, heeding my book's message that actions matter more than words. If I am to be true to that message, I need to do more than just publish a book. I need to work to turn its ideas into action. I hope you’ll join me.