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Toward a More Perfect Union
in an Age of Diversity


Creating a New "Social Contract"

Excerpted from a speech by
Henry Cisneros, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development


What would a social contract for our community look like? That is, if we were to agree to a set of principles, rights, and responsibilities for our city, what would those include?

Here is one proposed set of principles, excerpted from a speech by Henry Cisneros, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development :

  1. ...that we respect difference, because we honor the human spirit and we recognize that we are all in these communities together and none of us is going anywhere. We are going to have to live together. Let's find ways to respect each other.

  2. that we accept responsibility, not just demand things of the government, of our institutions or of each other, but that we accept individual responsibility.

  3. that we agree that there are social responsibilities, duties and obligations. If our society is to address social issues, then they will be addressed at the local level or not at all. Together we will set goals for our human capital that are as concrete as those for our streets, or parks, or library expansion. We can set goals for reducing poverty or for addressing social service expectations over a ten to fifteen year period.

  4. that we will teach. We will teach our children and we will teach each other. We will teach each other about our culture, we will teach each other about the things that bind us together.

  5. that we will celebrate our humanity, our capacity for understanding, for affection, our need for human contact. We will slow down the relentless dehumanizing assault, the disrespectful language, the violent acts, the pace of a society that moves so hard and fast that it detracts from our ability to think as human beings and relate to each other.

  6. that we must pledge to set up places, forums, communications, conversations, systems to allow all of these things to occur, places where we can listen, places where we can teach. It is not good enough to leave this to chance. It is not good enough to hope that somehow in the random meetings of elites, the business elite, and minority elite gathering together at the museum cocktail party that somehow we'll make contact that somehow passes for the requisite civic dialogue. We will need new structures in the society, new places, new forums, suspensions of skepticism and disbelief to allow these processes to play themselves out

  7. And that we will project an ethic of inclusiveness, an ethic of civility.

Are these principles proposed by Secretary Cisneros a good place to start? Why or why not? Are there others principles that would you propose?


Return to discussion suggestions in Session Four
of the AMPU Study Circle program

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