National Conference on Citizenship

National Conference on Citizenship
Nationalconference logo.gif
Founded 1946
Location Washington, DC, USA
Focus civic engagement, citizenship
Motto Defining Modern Citizenship
Website NCoC

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) was founded in 1946 and was later chartered by the United States Congress in 1953. NCoC was created in order to be a leader in promoting our nation’s civic life by tracking, "measuring and promoting civic participation and engagement in partnership with other organizations on a bipartisan, collaborative basis. The organization focuses on ways to enhance history and civics education, encourage national & community service, and promotes greater participation in the political process”.[1]


Mission statement

“The National Conference on Citizenship measures, tracks and promotes civic participation across the U.S. Guided by our Congressional Charter and the values of NCOC, we commission and publish the annual Civic Health Index, a quantitative means for building program consensus and measuring success with the goal of strengthening citizenship in America. In addition we hold the Annual Conference on Citizenship that brings together leaders in the civic engagement field to set concrete and ambitious goals to promote a more active and involved citizenry”[2]



  • David Smith, Executive Director
  • Kristen Cambell, Director, Programs and New Media
  • Morgan Corr, Executive Associate
  • Justin Bibb, Director, Civic Health Index

Board of directors

The National Conference on Citizenship's current Board of Directors consists of Norma Barfield, Barry Byrd, Phil Duncan, Eric Federing, Thomas Gottschalk, Martin Krall, Gail Leftwich Kitch, Dennis McGinn, A.G. Newmyer III, John Reeder, Thomas Susman, Craig Turk, Michael Weiser (Chairman), & Jocelyn White.[3]

Board of Advisors

The National Conference on Citizenship's Board of Advisors consists of the following individuals:[4]

Diana Aviv, Independent Sector
James Basker, Barnard College
John Bridgeland, Civic Enterprises (Chairman)
Jean Case, The Case Foundation
Frank Damrell, U.S District Court Judge (CA)
John J. Dilulio, Jr., University of Pennsylvania
Jane Eisner, The Forward
Chester E. Finn, Jr., Thomas B. Fordham Institute
William Galston, Brookings Institution
Stephen Goldsmith, Mayor of Indianapolis
Scott Heiferman,
Walter Isaacson, Aspen Institute
Amy Kass, Hudson Institute
Daphne Kwok
Michelle Nunn, Points of Light Institute
Michael Pack
Robert Putnam, Saguaro Seminar of Harvard University
Charles Quigley, Center for Civic Education
Ian Rowe, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Tobi Walker, Pew Charitable Trusts


"Liberty is not necessarily our permanent possession. Both external and internal pressures constantly assail it. Every generation, to keep its freedom, must each it through understanding of the past, vigilance in the present and determination for the future." - Earl Warren, 1955 February 19

“This republic, after all, was not founded by men who sat in their seats and waited for somebody else to do the job; by men who were so engrossed in their private affairs that they had no time to give to public questions. Furthermore, the system of constitutional representative democracy, private competitive business and civil and religious liberty, which they established, is not going to be maintained much longer unless we arouse ourselves from our lethargy and meet the rising tide of collectivism with intelligence and decision.” – Henning W. Prentis, Citizenship In A Republic

Origin: (1946-1953)

Purpose of NCoC: To Support and Strengthen the Efforts of the People in Maintaining the Blessings of Freedom and Justice and in Protecting and Perpetuating the Principles and Ideals upon which this Nation is Founded; to Develop a More Thorough Knowledge of Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities; to Inspire a Deeper Devotion to Citizenship Obligations; to Encourage Ever More Effective Participation in Citizenship Activities and to Promote a Spirit of Cooperation on the Part of all Citizens – to these High Purposes, the National Conference on Citizenship is Dedicated.

Founded in 1946, in the aftermath of the Second World War, NCoC was inspired by efforts of a diverse group of Americans and created with the goal of capturing and perpetuating, in peacetime, the spirit of cooperation and civic energy fostered during wartime. With the collective attention of the nation returning to domestic affairs, NCoC was imagined as a vehicle to highlight the critical importance of civic responsibility to the health of our republic so that all citizens might dedicate themselves to upholding continuously our concept of government and the democratic way of life.

The First NCoC was held on May 17–18, 1946 in Philadelphia, PA

Congressional Charter

On August 13, 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill that was passed by both houses of Congress that incorporated the Conference; allowing the NCoC to now operate under a Federal Charter. A Federal Carter is federal statue that establishes a co-operation between the government and organizations, agencies, or institutions. In 1953, the goal of the Congressional Charter was to empower “the NCoC to translate its ideals and objectives into realities. Plans for the future include both long-range and immediate projects and activates. The Conference will initiate and conduct some of these activities directly. Other, it will encourage and assist organizations and agencies in States and communities to initiate and carry on.” There are approximately 1,478,000 non-profits in America—94 of them are chartered by Congress.[5]

Present: (2004- Present)

Currently, the NCoC continues to stress the importance of civic engagement, to our local communities and nationwide. The Annual Conferences have been based on the ever-changing meaning of citizenship, innovative means to become more active citizens, and how various factors, such as technology, have impacted America’s civic health. In 2006, the NCoC, convened a working group to create the first “America’s Civic Health Index.” This index is now the preeminent annual measure of civic engagement in the US. Utilizing a variety of indicators the CHI provides a unique insight into civic trends within the nation, state, or local communities. The Civic Health Index focuses and continues to share American’s attitudes, beliefs, and values towards government and about certain social issues.

Annual Conference

The National Conference of Citizenship hosts an annual conference held in Washington, DC on or around Citizenship Day. Each year’s conference revolves around a different theme that concerns various aspects of civic engagement on a multitude of levels, including corporate, institutional, and individual responsibility.

The 2009 Conference, themed Civic Health in Hard Times, took place September 9, 2009 and focused on measuring civic return on investment and how meaningful public engagement could lift our country out of economic downturn.

Featured NCoC Speakers have included: Justice Antonin Scalia, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Senator Robert Byrd, Senator Harris Wofford, Senator Bob Graham, Jean Case, Sonal Shah, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Scott Heiferman, Craig Newmark, & Sean Parker.

This year’s conference will be held on September 17, 2010 and is themed BIG Citizenship: Citizens as Catalysts and Innovators.

Past Conferences

1953 – 8th Annual Conference – What Price, Freedom?

1954 – 9th Annual Conference – The Three Branches of our Federal Government, Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow.

1956 – 11th Annual Conference – The Voting Citizen

1957 – 12th Annual Conference – Imperatives for Peace

1958 – 13th Annual Conference – Citizenship in a Changing World

1960 – 15th Annual Conference – America: A Government of the People, for the People, by the People.

1961 – 16th Annual Conference – What We as Citizens Can Do for Our Country

1962 – 17th Annual Conference – What Can I Do for My Country in a Changing World?

1963 – 18th Annual Conference – American Citizenship: Showcase for Freedom

1966 – 19th Annual Conference – Supports of Freedom: The Law & The Ballot

What does it Mean to be a Citizen in America- A lecture by David McCullough on American national identity, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and the importance of an active, engaged citizenry.
Fostering Citizenship through Education- A panel discussion with Amy Kass, Alfonso Aguilar, Cynthia Gibson, and Charles Quigley.
Technology Strengthening Citizenship- A panel discussion with Gail Leftwich, Scott Heiferman, and Joe Trippi.
Citizenship and the Six Spheres of Influence: An Agenda for Social Capitalists- A lecture by Robert Putnam on social capital, its importance to functioning democracy, and how to build it.
Benjamin Franklin: “A Republic, If you Can Keep It”- A lecture by Walter Isaacson on Franklin’s notion of active citizenship.
A Dialogue on Freedom- A lecture by Justice Anthony Kennedy on institutionalizing freedom and the role of civic education.
Workplaces: Corporate Citizenship- A panel discussion with Jean Case, John Bridgeland, Bill McDermott, and Michelle Nunn
What Motivates Voting- A panel discussion with Amy Walter, Mark Ritchie, Ian Rowe, and Terence Smith.
Remarks from Justice Stephen Breyer
Beyond Glory- A play, written and performed by Stephen Lang, portraying Medal of Honor winners’ reflections on their service.
Transformational Moments- A discussion with Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, Kari Dunn, Chris Myers Asch, and David B. Smith on entering and fostering active citizenship.
Can Facebook Replace Face-to-Face– A discussion/debate with William Galston and Sean Parker on how Web 2.0 is affecting civic engagement and education.
Beyond the Vote: Action and Engagement Opportunities– A panel discussion on tapping the opportunities for increasing civic action and engagement generated by the 2008 general election.
Social Innovation in Civic Life– A panel discussion with moderator Jean Case and participants Barbara Bush, Justin Rockefeller, Sonal Shah, and Diana Wells.
Civic Health in Hard Times– A panel discussion with moderator Karen Tumulty and participants Senator Bob Graham, Mark Ritchie, & Helen Iris Torres.


Joseph H. Kanter Citizen of the Year Award

Named for NCoC’s long-time chairman, the Citizen of the Year Award is granted to a private citizen who has exemplified active citizenship in contributing to the public good.

Past winners have included: TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel (2010), Philanthropists Eugene Lang (2008) & Ray Chambers (2007), Educational Pioneer Irasema Salcido (2006), Congressman Lee H. Hamilton (2005), and Senator Harris Wofford (2004).

Franklin Award

The Franklin Award is given to outstanding individuals in federal service who are working to strength citizenship in America. The award bears the famous Franklin quote, “A Republic if you can keep it", his response when asked what style of government the Constitution would create.

Past winners have included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2010), Justice Antonin Scalia (2009), former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (2008), Justice Stephen Breyer (2007), and Senator Lamar Alexander (2005)

Major George A. Smith Memorial Fund “HOOAH” Award

This award recognizes a notable veteran who defines their citizenship and service to our country, both in uniform and beyond.

Past winners are Derek Blumke (Student Veterans of America) (2010), Lt. Eric Greitens (2009).

Other awards

Jane Addams Award, Scott Heiferman (2005); Young Citizen of the Year Award, Robbie Bergquist and Brittany Bergquist (2007).

Civic Health Index

Since 2006, the National Conference on Citizenship, in partnership with the Civic Indicators Working Group, has published annual reports called America’s Civic Health Index. This series of reports has informed Americans about leading indicators of our nation’s civic health and has motivated citizens, leaders and policymakers to strengthen the foundations of civic engagement. It has been cited by the White House, New York Times, and several other publications. America’s Civic Health Index has become the leading gauge of how well Americans are connecting to each other and their communities, and measures rates of volunteering, voting, connections to civic and religious organizations, trust in other Americans and key institutions, and other civic behavior and attitudes.[6]

America’s Civic Health Index received a new level of recognition through its inclusion in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which was signed into law in May 2009. The Act formalized a partnership between NCoC, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Corporation for National and Community Service to develop, refine, and implement an annual civic health assessment.

Key Findings

America’s Civic Health Index for 2009 shows that the economic recession is causing a civic depression. The national survey finds that 72% of Americans say they cut back on the time they spent volunteering, participating in groups, and doing other civic activities in the past year, during the same period when the economy was free-falling. Public perception supports this finding as 66% of Americans say they feel other people are responding to the current economic downturn by looking out for themselves, while only 19% said people around them are responding to the recession by helping each other more.

The report found that trust in the government and in other key institutions have reached new lows. Only 6% of Americans have a “great deal of confidence” in Congress, the Executive Branch, or banks and financial institutions, and major companies occupy the basement of public trust at only 5%. This is a significant change as major companies were the 3rd most trusted institution in 2000 and have fallen to 10th in 2009, and banks have fallen from 2nd in 2000, 2004, and 2006 to 7th in 2009.

CHI, however, investigated a few new indicators of engagement – more personal forms of participation. Interestingly, people with the least means are giving the most. Although people of modest means are less likely to volunteer than affluent Americans (29% vs. 50%), they are more likely to give food, money or shelter (24% vs. 21%). When looking specifically at those who do not participate in traditional forms of volunteering, 39% of those making less than $50,000 helped in other ways like providing food and shelter, versus only 27% of those in higher income brackets. In addition to turning inward to take care of one’s family and friends, Americans are also focusing their trust toward more personal institutions—small/local businesses received the highest level of public trust with 31% expressing a “great deal of confidence.”

Organized religion also saw an increase in trust as this institution moved from 5th place in 2002 to 2nd in 2009. Participation in religious groups played a major role in resiliency—40% of those who attend religious services frequently reported an increase in their civic engagement, matched only by those who spend a great deal of time visiting their friends. Beyond the differences between socio-economic classes, there are also interesting variations based on age and race. Millennials lead the way in volunteering with a 43% service rate, compared to only 35% for Baby Boomers. Even within a generation, there are significant differences as 45% of Baby Boomers who are still in the work force volunteer versus only 23% of those who are retired. Additionally, Baby Boomers are engaging in other ways – 38% of Baby Boomers (49% of those in retirement and 33% of those still working) gave food, money or shelter while only 28% of Millennials did the same.

State-Level Civic Health Index Reports

In addition to the America’s Civic Health Index report, the National Conference on Citizenship partners with local institutions to release state specific reports in California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Ohio.[7]

Notable Past Directors

Tom Clark (Appointed in 1950) 59th Attorney General of the United States under President Harry Truman from 1945 to 1949 and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1949–1967.

Earle Hawkins (Appointed in 1953) First Vice President of the Board of Directors of NCoC in 1960.

Willard E. Givens (Appointed in 1960) Past Executive Secretary of the National Education Association from 1935 to 1952.

Thomas J. Lane Past United States Representative of Massachusetts.

Alvin M. Bentley (Appointed in 1960) Past Representative of Michigan’s 8th District

Brooks Hays (Appointed in 1960) Past Representative of Arkansas’ 5th District and adviser to President John F. Kennedy.

Lawrence Augusta Oxley (Appointed in 1960) Past Community Organizer-Influential Social Change Advocate of his time.

J. Albert Woll (Appointed in 1958) Past General Counsel for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Special Sssistant to the Attorney General of the United States, and former United States Attorney for Northern District of Illinois.

Notable Past Chairmen

Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower (who signed NCoC's Congressional Charter) served as honorary members.

Earl Warren Chief Justice of the United States in 1953.

Warren E. Burger Chief Justice of the United States in 1969.

Harlan Fiske Stone 52nd United States Attorney General in 1924 and Chief Justice of the United States in 1941.

Charles Evans Hughes 36th Governor of New York, the 44th United States Secretary of State, and the 11th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Alben Barkley Past Vice President of the United States under President Truman.


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