13 Presidential Centers Issue Joint Message On ‘Principles Of Democracy’
Former Presidents
Photo by Paul Morse/George W. Bush Presidential Center via Getty Images

The presidential centers for thirteen ex-presidents issued a rare joint statement addressing the state of American democracy on Thursday, calling for “compassion, tolerance, pluralism, and respect” in the political arena.

With signatories from the foundation of former Presidents Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama, the statement outlined American values, the importance of its institutions, and “reaffirm[ed]” each foundation’s “commitment to the principles of democracy.” This is the first time presidential libraries have joined together for a statement of this sort, according to the Associated Press.

“As a diverse nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, democracy holds us together,” the statement says. “We are a country rooted in the rule of law, where the protection of the rights of all people is paramount. At the same time, we live among our fellow citizens, underscoring the importance of compassion, tolerance, pluralism, and respect for others.”

The message, titled “Strengthening our democracy,” said that the United States has not always lived up to its stated ideals, but that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has enabled the country to strive toward a “more perfect union.” The signatories said they represented a large and diverse swath of the American people, adding that they believe those views can “exist peaceably side by side when rooted in the principles of democracy.”

“Debate and disagreement are central features in a healthy democracy,” the statement continues. “Civility and respect in political discourse, whether in an election year or otherwise, are essential.”

On the current state of American democracy, the statement suggested that the country is currently a “house in disarray,” which they argued undermines the ability of the U.S. to support democracy and human rights abroad. “The world will not wait for us to address our problems, so we must both continue to strive toward a more perfect union and help those abroad looking for U.S. leadership,” the statement says, adding that American leaders who “govern effectively” and “deliver for the American people” will help to “restore trust in public service.”

Signatories include the foundations, libraries, or organizations connected to former presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Hoover.


The joint statement was reportedly organized by the George W. Bush Institute’s executive director, David Kramer, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor under George W. Bush, who reportedly “signed off” on the letter himself. Kramer leaked the infamous Steele Dossier — that contained unfounded rumors and innuendo about former President Donald Trump — to Buzzfeed News in an alleged attempt to prevent his 2017 inauguration, according to a report from the Daily Caller. Funded by the Clinton campaign for opposition research, the FBI used the dossier to obtain warrants to surveil Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The Eisenhower Foundation said in a statement to the Associated Press that they “respectfully declined to sign this statement,” adding, “It would be the first common statement that the presidential centers and foundations have ever issued as a group, but we have had no collective discussion about it, only an invitation to sign.”

It’s not clear if anyone from Trump’s team was ever approached to sign the letter. While there is a website for Trump’s presidential library, he does not yet have a physical location for one, and he hasn’t announced plans for one.

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