An Exercise of Democracy

Secretary Skorton reminds us that the exercise of democracy can help us be reassured and confident of the future.


American Flag

Every four years, we Americans are privileged to cast our votes for the President of the United States and a host of other elected officials. Elections can be tumultuous, but no matter the outcome, no matter the acrimony, anger and disappointment, this exercise of democracy and the subsequent peaceful transition of power is a hallmark of this country’s greatness. As I stood in line yesterday waiting to vote, I was able to consider these processes and was honored that USA Today published this morning some of my observations.

We are fortunate to be part of the Smithsonian, where, every day, we seek to tell the story of America in all its inspiring, beautiful, and sometimes frustrating details. We occupy a unique place in American culture. We are caretakers of our nation’s past, we study and learn from the present, and we strive, through research and education, to impact the future. We have been doing this for more than 170 years, and we will continue to do so. At a time when our country seems more divided than ever, the Smithsonian serves as common ground for Americans—no matter which candidate they supported—to come together around shared values and experiences and engage in respectful, meaningful conversation on the important, and sometimes, divisive issues we face. Our leaders and the public trust the Smithsonian because we understand that our mission – the increase and diffusion of knowledge—transcends partisanship. This year’s election, like those before it, provides us opportunities to strengthen that trust.

I am proud of the work that we do on behalf of the American public and am grateful for the dedication of all our staff and volunteers who make it happen.

Posted: 9 November 2016
About the Author:

David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian. A board-certified cardiologist whose specialty is congenital heart disease and cardiac imaging, Skorton is also an avid jazz musician and a passionate supporter of the arts and humanities.