Arts and Entertainment

Virtual book club to discuss civic engagement in American democracy

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — No matter how the 2020 election turns out, Americans showed up to vote and volunteer as poll workers and ballot counters in ways not seen in a long time. Can that civic spirit continue into the next election and beyond? What are the factors working against becoming more involved?

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s virtual book club will examine those questions in a discussion of the book “Engaged: A Citizen’s Perspective on the Future of Civic Life,” written by Penn State alumnus Andrew Sommers. The virtual book club meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7, in Zoom, and feature a large-group Q&A with Sommers followed by smaller breakout group discussions.

“Engaged” includes personal stories, public opinion research and history about what it means to be an engaged citizen. Sommers said his goal is to speak to all Americans, from veterans to entrepreneurs to educators, about how we can all become involved in weaving a new social fabric and creating systems that work for everyone. 

Sommers has a bachelor of arts degree from Penn State and a master's from the University of Pennsylvania; he works as a management consultant in Washington, D.C. He is quick to point out that he’s not a scholar or a politician, just an ordinary citizen who decided to take a deep dive into the history and current state of civic life in the United States.

“I hope to reconnect us with the importance of civic engagement and traditions to American democracy, and a functioning democracy more broadly,” Sommers said. “In short, what do we mean by civic engagement and why does it matter?”

The Dec. 7 book club discussion is open to the entire Penn State community. Reading the book is encouraged but not required. Learn more and register at

Last Updated November 04, 2020