There’s A Place for You in the People’s State of the Union

Share a story you think the next President absolutely needs to hear.

Imagine sitting in a Story Circle of friends or neighbors at the People’s State of the Union 2016 and being offered this invitation. What would your story be?

Some Citizen Artists might want to tell about the time they invited neighbors to #DareToImagine a world without homelessness or HIV. Another teller might share a tale about a job being imported overseas or a new job opening up unexpected possibilities. Someone else might tell about the anger, pain, desire for justice that birthed #BlackLivesMatter; or a time a city welcomed refugees with open hearts and arms.

Share a story about something you have experienced that gave you insight into the state of our union.

Last week the USDAC launched #PSOTU2016, the second iteration of our annual civic ritual. Already, dozens of people have signed up to host Story Circles between January 23 and 31, 2016. Whether you’d like to host a single Circle of a few friends around your own kitchen table or plan a large-scale community event with multiple Circles, please scroll down to sign up on this page, and you’ll instantly have access to a Toolkit, online training, and a bunch of other materials that make it super-easy to do.

Scroll down further to check out 2015 stories, a video, and the collaborative Poetic Address to the Nation to get a glimpse of what #PSOTU2016 can do. This year, the Poetic Address will be live-streamed on Free Speech TV!

Share a story about a moment you felt true belonging—or the opposite—in this country.

In 2015, belonging and community were the top tags for stories shared to the PSOTU Story Portal. In a way, the PSOTU motto says it all: Democracy is a conversation, not a monologue. No single individual can sum up the state of our union; it takes all our stories to understand where we are now and where we want to be going. When we join together in real time to share those stories in a Circle of absolute invitation and true equality, we experience a taste of belonging that feeds the hunger for community.

If all PSOTU accomplished were to introduce neighbors to a wonderfully engaging and democratic mode of dialogue and an opportunity to listen deeply to each others’ stories, that could be enough. But it’s also a form of action research. Download our free publication, An Act of Collective Imagination: The USDAC’s First Two Years of Action Research, to see how community members’ stories turn into exciting, generative ideas for new policies and actions that respond to their concerns and hopes.

To give you a taste, here’s a snippet of a story printed in the report that was contributed by a teacher in Philadelphia:

On a Friday afternoon before school began this year (I’m a teacher in a public school in North Philadelphia, about ten minutes from where I live in East Falls), every single teacher in the entire school and all the staff and the security staff as well walked throughout North Philadelphia as a group. And all of us wore our Edison shirts and walked the neighborhood that our kids walk to school. People came out to look, like who are these crazy people walking in green shirts throughout the neighborhood, and it’s a neighborhood I worked in as a teenager painting murals. And kids were coming out— they hadn’t started school yet, and they were yelling at us “Hey,” and I thought that maybe there’s this potential they would throw things at us because we’re teachers— we’re the bad guys in many cases—but the people in the community came up to us and said thanks. Thanked us for coming out and seeing them.

The USDAC is working with organizations to promote Story Circle events to their constituencies, tailoring Story Circle prompts to their issues: “Share a story about something you have experienced that gave you insight into the state of education in our union” for instance. Or environment, health care, gender justice…. If you’re interested in talking about it, just drop us a note at

Behind #PSOTU2016 is a simple idea befitting a people-powered department: policy shouldn’t be something abstract, imposed on communities. People’s voices, visions, and dreams should create the fertile field from which real cultural democracy springs. To change the world, we have to change the story. Sign up today.