Achieving the Promise: Democracy and the Informed Citizen

Lander University’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences will host a series of events that will bring together scholars, journalists, civic leaders, students and citizens into an extended conversation aimed at cultivating an informed citizenry. Entitled “Achieving the Promise: Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” the project provides a distinct set of opportunities and experiences for the citizens within the Lakelands region. SC Humanities supported this project with a Major Grant.

“Democracy and the Informed Citizen” is a national initiative, spearheaded by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, of which SC Humanities is a member. SC Humanities has developed an eight-month series of programs on the theme of “News Literacy and the Future of Journalism.”

Lander University has already hosted precursor events, including a voter registration campaign where nearly 100 students registered to vote. “Achieving the Promise” officially begins on November 1 with the university’s political candidate forum.  The series continues with a panel on civic engagement on November 7, and a lecture on November 13 by Lander professor Dr. Kimberly Richburg on “Briggs v. Elliott,” the S.C. case that later inspired “Brown v. Board of Education.”

The project’s four goals are to empower informed citizens and model good political dialogue; teach about civic engagement in a pluralist democracy; analyze the role of the media; and strengthen relations between Lander University and the surrounding community.  To emphasize the importance of a free press for cultivating informed and engaged citizens, the project is a partnership between Lander and the Index-Journal, a locally-owned community newspaper. “Achieving the Promise” seeks to strengthen the network of relationships between Lander and key civic groups, leaders, and citizens, thereby connecting to the idea of “new localism” discussed by scholars Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak. The pair point out that civic renewal is more likely to occur when a network of local leaders within government, business, non-profits and neighborhood associations work together on shared projects and concerns.

“Lander recognizes with gratitude the generous support of SC Humanities that will help fund ‘Achieving the Promise,’” said Dr. Woodiwiss, the grant’s Project Director.  “With a variety of public events that run from November to March 2019, Lander will provide the university and greater community a range of opportunities to engage with fellow citizens in learning and working together.”

“This grant will teach and inspire us all as life-long learners, and the linkages with the Index-Journal and the City of Greenwood reflect upon the college’s goal to enhance community partnerships,” Dr. McMillan added.

The planned programs are:

  • Nov. 1, 6:00-8:00
    “Political Candidate Forum
    Abney Cultural Center Auditorium.
    This forum, co-sponsored with the Index-Journal, brings before a public audience various office-seekers who will speak on what brought them into public life and what their platforms are for national, state, or local office. Invitations will be sent to candidates for U.S. House, S.C. House, Mayor of Greenwood, and local school board seats.
    Moderators: Dr. Lucas McMillan & Mr. Richard Whiting (Editor, Index-Journal)
    Submit question here
  • Nov. 7, 5:30-7:00.
    “Panel on Civic Engagement”
    Abney Cultural Center Auditorium.

    Following Election Day on Nov. 6, this panel ensures that we understand civic engagement to be much more than simply voting. This panel will address such questions as: What motivates us for civic engagement? What forms have proved successful? What role(s) do individuals in their professions have as citizens? How do we get involved? The panel draws upon distinct civic experiences from a diverse collection of citizens, who, in telling their stories will open up the civic imagination.
    Panelists:  Mr. Bob Inglis (Executive Director, Energy and Enterprise Initiative, George Mason University; fmr. U.S. Congressman), Ms. Lisa Lane and Ms. Susan Sachs
    (Co-Founders and Co-Executive Director of Project HOPE Foundation), S.C. Sen. Floyd Nicholson (former Mayor and Greenwood City Councilman) and Mr. Jason Zacher (Senior VP for Business Advocacy, Greenville Chamber of Commerce)
    Moderator:  Dr. Ashley Woodiwiss​
  • Nov. 13, 3:30-4:45
    Public Lecture on Briggs v. Elliott(1952)
    Carnell Learning Center LC 300
    The S.C. case that later inspired Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Delivered by Dr. Kimberly Richburg, a native of Clarendon County whose uncle participated in the case, this lecture presents a vivid illustration how, in a rightly constituted democracy, the powerless still possess power.
  • Jan. 22, 3:30-4:45. Carnell Learning Center LC 300. Campus talks by Lander students who attended the NEW (National Education for Women) Leadership South Carolina conference at Winthrop University. 
    These students will present first-person accounts of their experience at the May 2018 conference and how this has positioned them for future civic engagement.
    Speakers: Ms. Courtney Cannon, Ms. Kaitlynn Strahl, & Ms. Kathryn Wypasek​
    Moderator: Dr. Lucas McMillan
  • Late January or early February
    Op-Ed essays published in Index-Journal

    The newspaper will provide a story explaining this element of the AtP project and publish five Lander students’ op-ed essays. These essays will be selected by a Lander faculty review team and come from assignments within selected fall courses in POLS and Mass Comm.
  • Feb. 12, 5:30-7:00
    Panel: “Journalism in S.C. Public Life”
    Abney Cultural Center Auditorium.

    This panel probes the current state of journalism and public life through the experience and reflections of veteran members of the media in South Carolina. What are the civic benefits of journalism? What particular challenges does journalism confront? What is to be done? Panelists will help the audience analyze different forms of media and the advantages and disadvantages of types of sources (for understanding policy, societal needs, and reflection upon civic engagement, and the vital place of the media in American democracy.)
    Panelists: Mr. Andy Brack (Publisher, SC Statehouse Report), Mr. Andy Shain (Columbia Bureau Chief, The Post and Courier), Mr. Russ McKinney (Reporter, ETV Radio)
    Invited: Ms. Seanna Adcox (Assistant Columbia Bureau Chief, The Post and Courier)
    Moderator: Dr. Brent Nelsen (Professor of Political Science, Furman University; Chair, SCETV Commission; fmr. board member, Corporation for Public Broadcasting)
  • Feb. 25, 5:30-7:30
    Greenwood City Council meeting on Lander’s campus
    Location TBD

    Welcome by Dr. Lucas McMillan
    Moderator of Q&A session from students’ questions: Mr. Charlie Barrineau, City Mgr.
  • March or April.
    A special edition of The Forum, Lander’s campus newspaper, is published.

    The Forum, Lander’s campus newspaper, will publish a special edition on civic engagement
  • March 28, 3:30-4:45. Abney Cultural Center Recital Hall CC 250 A Conversation about Political Parties with Dr. Jim Rex
    Former S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex is one of two national vice-chairs for the Alliance Party, a new party whose supporters argue that American politics need more choices than the Democratic and Republican parties.  Dr. Rex is former Chair of the American Party of South Carolina, one of the founding members of this new Alliance Party.  This conversation will explore party politics in our state and nation.
    Moderator: Dr. Ashley Woodiwiss

For more information on “Achieving the Promise,” visit or call 864-388-8733.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 21-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.