December 8, 2016


Our politics is broken. Evidence of dysfunction dominates the headlines, and the consequences are dire. Extreme partisanship, a breakdown in civility, gridlock on Capitol Hill, the pervasive influence of money, campaigns that pander to our worst instincts, and other pathologies of modern politics have caused us to lose trust in our political institutions and have eroded our belief that we can come together to solve our common problems. Unless we fix our politics, we cannot hope to tackle the great policy challenges of our time.

Duke students are highly idealistic and dedicated to making the world a better place, but many are deeply disenchanted with what they see of politics today. Like many of their generation, they are understandably tempted to turn away from politics. Yet a healthy democracy depends on citizens who are politically engaged—as voters, advocates, policy experts, organizers, journalists, teachers, and political candidates. If we are to meet the great challenges of our time, we cannot abandon the public arena.

The imperative, therefore, is not to abandon but to fix our politics, and to inspire a new generation of political leaders and engaged citizens devoted to that cause. POLIS has two missions:

  • To seek solutions to the problems of contemporary politics
  • To prepare a new generation of political leaders and engaged citizens

Our (outrageous) ambition is not simply to engage in politics as it is, but to enlist the creative energies of the Duke community—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to promote what politics could be.

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