Frank Milligan

If we were to ask ten people on the street what “civics” means, we’d get back ten unique answers. We are all familiar with the term, but what does it really mean?

Civics emphasizes the role of the citizen – our rights, responsibilities, and duties. How the term is further defined depends on who you are talking to. It’s important to recognize that civics can have multiple meanings, because how we define it affects the way it is taught and what shape it takes in our communities and democracy.

At Morven Park’s Center for Civic Impact, we build our definition around the actions of civics – sharing your voice, examining issues, taking responsibility for your choices, and making an impact on your community and democracy. But, even amongst our team here we each explain our work a little differently, and we want to share those perspectives in a series called “Talks with our Team: What Does Civics Mean to You?”

This contributing post comes from our Executive Director Frank Milligan whose vision for a better democracy led to the founding of Morven Park’s Center for Civic Impact.


Maybe it was the two items I read over the past weekend; or maybe it was my looming November 25 retirement date. Maybe it was both. But the fact is I am increasingly heartened with Morven Park’s decision to commit its resources to delivering a world – class civics program through its Center for Civic Impact.

Former Massachusetts politician Barney Frank’s autobiography, Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage, is instructive for its insight into how instrumental were face-to-face conversations on Capitol Hill to securing political compromises over critical issues such as LGBT rights and post-great recession economic policy. I also enjoyed reading an article entitled Stop Googling – Let’s Talk in the NYT’s Sunday Review. In it, psychologist Sherry Turkle reflects on 30 years of studying the psychology of online connectivity, and concludes -not surprisingly – that most of us would rather text than talk. To that I might add most of us would also rather text than listen or watch – in effect we would rather text than try to understand another’s point of view.

Both works illustrate that meaningful, respectful dialogue is necessary to maintaining relationships – in our homes, and in our places of work and play. As I prepare to leave Morven Park, I do so confident that our educational civics programs continue to play a critical role in teaching today’s youth – and tomorrow’s leaders – the skills required to exercise productive civic leadership. I should also add my fervent belief that Governor and Mrs. Davis would join in a robust “Tally Ho!” to the excellent work being done by our dedicated, talented civics educational staff.

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