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America Speaks FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is America Speaks: Our Budget, Our Economy?

AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy will engage the American public in an unprecedented national discussion about our federal budget. Thousands of Americans reflecting the demographic, geographic and political diversity of our nation will come together on June 26, 2010, to weigh-in on the difficult choices necessary to put our federal budget on a sustainable path. The deliberation will present the public with a balanced set of options and use technology to identify views that transcend geography, demographics or politics. The national discussion will produce recommendations to our nation's leaders that reflect the shared priorities of a broad, cross-section of the American public.

AmericanSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy has been made possible by the generous contributions of private foundations including The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

How will the national discussion work?

On June 26, 2010, thousands of Americans across the country will participate in an unprecedented National Town Meeting on our federal budget. The National Town Meeting will include thousands of people in different locations all across the country connected live via satellite video, webcast and interactive technologies:

  • In up to 19 cities, thousands of participants reflecting the demographic, geographic and political diversity of the United States will attend AmericaSpeaks 21st Century Town Meetings.
  • Thousands more will join the National Town Meeting at volunteer-organized Community Conversations.
  • Many more individuals will be able to tune-in from home to watch live video coverage online, participate in the discussion, and share their own priorities in an online forum.

Why are you convening a national discussion on our federal budget? What does it matter?

As national leaders work to jumpstart our economy, challenges loom on the horizon and threaten the long-term vitality of the United States – most notably, national deficits that are projected to grow at an unsustainable rate. In the next year or two, large deficits will be unavoidable as we continue to implement policies to ensure a robust economic recovery. Nevertheless, we must begin working today to find common ground on the tough choices our nation will have to make in the years ahead to ensure that we are not spending more than we have.

To put our nation on a more sustainable path, national leaders will face a number of difficult decisions that will be highly contested and sometimes unpopular. Unless we plan appropriately, the national deficit and mounting debt will grow out of control. Our elected officials, facing tough decisions, need a way to engage voters and better understand the public's priorities. The longer we wait, the harder this problem will be to fix.

Who will participate in the national discussion?

The national discussion will engage a broad cross-section of the American public, reflecting the nation's rich demographic and political diversity. Anyone can participate in the National Town Meeting by registering for one of our 21st Century Town Meeting sites, our volunteer-organized Community Conversations, or by joining in online. Space is limited at our 21st Century Town Meeting sites and AmericaSpeaks will monitor the registration process to ensure that participation reflects the nation's diversity. If a 21st Century Town Meeting site is reaching capacity, some registrants will be asked to attend a Community Conversation nearby.

How will the registration process for the meeting work?

Participation is free, but space is limited. Anyone can register at our web site at usabudgetdiscussion.org, call toll-free at 866-755-6263, fax a completed registration form to 301-567-9553, or mail a completed registration form to PO Box 623, Oxon Hill, MD 20750-0623.

What if there is not a meeting site near me? What if I am not available on June 26?

New meeting sites are being announced frequently, so check back at www.usabudgetdiscussion.org.

However, if there is not a meeting site near year, you can volunteer to convene your own Community Conversation and invite others from your community to join the National Town Meeting at a forum in your home, office or community center. You can also choose to participate online at www.usabudgetdiscussion.org. Online participants will watch the program's webcast and join online forums.

After June 26, AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy will provide additional ways to participate in the national discussion online as well as through Community Conversations.

How will the national discussion make a difference?

AmericaSpeaks, our partners, and the thousands of people who participated in the National Town Meeting will work together to ensure that the values and priorities we agree on are heard and taken seriously by decision-makers in Washington.

AmericaSpeaks will present the priorities that emerge from the National Town Meeting to Congress and President Obama, as well as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Bi-Partisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force. The results that emerge from the discussion will have credibility with policy makers because they will reflect the authentic views of a large, informed, and representative group of Americans. The discussion will not be manipulated by any side or point of view, and will give the American public a real chance to find common ground.

In the weeks and months following the event, we will work with participants, as well as our local and national partners, to continue to educate the public about the challenges facing the nation and to raise awareness about the national priorities that were produced through the discussions.

Who is AmericaSpeaks?

AmericaSpeaks is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the mission to reinvigorate American democracy by engaging citizens in the public decision-making that most impacts their lives.

Over the past 15 years, we have engaged more than 150,000 people across the country on some of the most pressing issues facing our communities and our nation, including the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, economic development in Northeast Ohio, and creating municipal budget priorities for Washington, DC. We have done so through innovative meetings that integrate authentic deliberation with new kinds of technology.

AmericaSpeaks takes pride in its reputation as an honest and neutral advocate for public participation. We play a unique role in the policymaking process by serving as a non-partisan convener of forums that provide the public with an opportunity to make decisions about important issues without fear of manipulation or bias. Our ability to help citizens and elected officials come together around tough public issues is dependent on our commitment to maintaining this neutral role. We have not and will never take a position on the outcomes of the national discussion.

Who is paying for the National Discussion?

AmericaSpeaks has assembled a group of funders with diverse interests and programs that strengthen the credibility of the National Town Meeting.

The National Town Meeting is made possible by generous contributions from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Is the national discussion advocating for a specific solution or position?

This National Town Meeting will be framed by a bipartisan committee of experts representing diverse viewpoints and reviewed by a diverse National Advisory Board to ensure a fair discussion and credible results. AmericaSpeaks commits to do everything possible to ensure that the national discussion presents an unbiased set of policy options and creates a neutral space for discussion. We have not and will never take a position on the outcomes of the national discussion.

How are you deciding what questions will be posed to the public?

AmericaSpeaks is working closely with a bipartisan committee of experts to frame the choices that will be put before the public. Among the organizations represented are the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Heritage Foundation, the Urban Institute, and Economy.com. The work of this committee will be reviewed by our National Advisory Board.

What happens after June 26?

AmericaSpeaks, our partners, and the thousands of people who participated in the National Town Meeting will work together to ensure that the values and policy priorities we agreed on are heard and taken seriously by decision-makers in Washington. AmericaSpeaks will present the priorities that emerge from the National Town Meeting to Congress and President Obama, as well as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Bi-Partisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force.  In the weeks and months following the event, we will work with participants, as well as our local and national partners, to continue to educate the public about the challenges facing the nation and to raise awareness about the national priorities that were produced through the discussions.  Individuals and organizations will have access to an array of tools to stay involved, ranging from writing letters to the editor to facilitating conversations to taking action in their communities.

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