To the average citizen, what goes on in Washington can seem distant and puzzling. It is difficult to follow debates in Congress on complex policy issues.
But the framers of the Constitution envisioned Congress as the place where the great variety of voices and opinions in America would get full airing as new laws are considered. When Congress functions as it should, it is a contentious place, where competing proposals are energetically debated.
At the Center on Congress, we believe that learning about Congress is central to learning about responsible citizenship. The Center is a nonpartisan educational institution that strives to help citizens understand how to be effective in bringing their concerns and requests to their elected officials, so that actions taken by the government will more truly reflect the “consent of the governed.”
Representative democracy does not perpetuate itself. Each new generation of citizens must be taught how to become capable and confident participants in the process of governing. We work with teachers and education professionals to determine the best ways to make civics instruction effective, interesting, and relevant.
What We Do
The Center seeks to inspire young people and adults to take an active part in revitalizing representative government in America. To that end, the Center offers multiple resources, programs, and projects that foster an informed electorate that understands our system of government and participates in civic life. These include:
• An extensive array of print publications and interactive online learning resources
• Engaging videos for classroom use
• Commentaries about Congress and citizen engagement for newspapers and radio
• Professional development seminars and awards for teachers
• Seminars to help journalists cover Congress with more depth and perspective
• Survey research on the public’s interaction with and attitudes about Congress
• Public service announcements for television and radio
• A distinguished speaker series and other programs about Congress and citizen participation
The Center was established in January 1999. It developed out of Lee Hamilton
’s recognition during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives that the public should be more familiar with Congress’ strengths and weaknesses, its role in our system of government, and its impact on the lives of ordinary people every day.