Why This Issue?

In the last calendar year alone, our elected officials nearly defaulted on the nation’s debt, nearly shut down the government over disaster relief in September, failed to reach an accord for debt reduction in November, and forced another showdown over the payroll tax in December. These stalemates are doing nothing to help a nation grappling with sustained economic problems and an uncertain future.

At the same time, our world is changing in dramatic and unexpected ways, with happenings such as the Arab Spring.

Does our political system have the capacity to deal with the challenges our country faces, both foreign and domestic, in the coming years? How can we promote effective discourse and innovative thinking to bring about progress in a productive, efficient way?

“A More Perfect Union” challenges us to reflect on ways to bring positive change to our nation’s democratic system, leading to solutions for our nation’s most substantive problems.

“Business as usual in our political system just won’t cut it anymore,” said Michael Desch, professor of political science. “If we really want to take on the big problems we face—from a ballooning budget deficit to a broken health care and retirement system—we are going to have think way outside of the box.”

Why Notre Dame?

“Notre Dame is a distinctively Catholic university that strives to be among the preeminent universities in the world … [and] a moral voice for the country and the world,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., in his inaugural address in 2005. “We have not just an opportunity, but a duty to think and speak and act in ways that will guide, inspire, and heal—not just for the followers of the Catholic faith, but for all our neighbors in the nation and the world.”

The University does not aim to sponsor another presidential debate, but rather encourage thought and dialogue about these issues at a high level, and from a long-term perspective. The University’s Catholic character and interdisciplinary structure inform this discussion of pressing national concern and allow the Notre Dame community to advance the University’s mission to serve the common good.

Why now?

This fall, the presidential election will bring to light many critical issues that are central to the future of our nation. How our newly elected leaders address these challenges will determine the course of our nation’s future.