The Democracy Project

Student holding flagU.S. CapitolMason students


Link to George Mason University

American Democracy Project Logo

Contact Information :
Dr. Claire Snyder-Hall
Higher Education Program
George Mason University
4400 University Drive Fairfax, VA 22030
Tel: 703-993-2308
Fax: 703-993-2307



Claire Snyder Welcome to the Democracy Project at George Mason University! This project is an exciting opportunity for our entire campus community to reflect on the democratic principles, institutions, and practices that have shaped our own nation and that of other nations around the world.

People often comment that democracy is "the best form of government," but why? What does the term democracy really mean? We all know our rights, but what responsibilities do we have as members of a "self-governing republic"? What does it take to make democracy work as it should, and are we all doing our part?

Contrary to popular belief, the terms "democracy" and "republic" do not refer to two different forms of government. They are simply Greek and Latin words for a form of government through which the people govern themselves. Taken literally "democracy" means rule by the people, while "republic" means public thing. In American society today, we tend to be very individualistic yet both terms for self-government entail mutual participation and decision-making the people shall rule, by attending to their shared public life.

We live in a representative democracy, so voting is very important. That is how we exercise our popular sovereignty. In order for the people to be sovereign, we need to choose our own elected officials and hold them accountable to the will of the people.

In its strongest sense, however, democracy entails a lot more than simply voting on Election Day. It also requires us to take an active role in helping to solve public problems, which requires us to think seriously and critically about what goes on in our communities and the world around us. So the question for each of us becomes: What principles do I believe in and what am I doing to take responsibility for the way things are on my campus, in my community, my country, and our shared world?

Because of the nature of our community at Mason, we've opted to call ourselves the Democracy Project unmodified (rather than the American Democracy Project) in order to broaden our focus and recognize both our large international student population and the diversity of American students at Mason. We hope that everyone on our campus will take an active role in making democracy stronger and better.

Please join me in continuing the exciting work that Mason's Democracy Project has begun over the course of the last few years. If you want to get involved, please email me at

Claire Snyder-Hall
Associate Professor of Political Theory
ADP Campus Coordinator



Peter Stearns

Freedom of Speech

The Democracy Project has been working well at George Mason for several years. It allows students to discuss a variety of issues relating to democracy both at home and abroad. It provides a framework for
provocative speakers. It fits what seems to be a small but promising trend of increased political awareness and participation by young
people. Mason already had a disproportionate number of politically active students, with what various independent surveys identified as an
unusually engaged student body. But there is always room to do better, and the Project pushes in the right direction. It fits our region and its builds on existing strengths at Mason....more

Peter Stearns

Book cover of ADP


ADP Core Text

Educating Citizens: Preparing America's Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civic Responsibility.

Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, Elizabeth Beaumont & Jason Stephens. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 2003.



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