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ACLU Executive Director's TED Talk: Democracy Must Not Be Spectator Sport

NEW YORK - American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero’s TED talk was published today. It issued a call to action for Americans to fight against the "bad government" of the Trump administration, as seen through the lens of a 14th century Italian painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

“A painting that is 650 years old is holding up a frightening mirror to our democracy," said Romero. “Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted an 'allegory of bad government' in 1339 that eerily tracks many of the challenges we now confront under the Trump administration.”

Surrounded by magnificent images of 14th century Italian art, Romero’s talk takes viewers through an art history lesson that resonates today: a tour of the “Allegory of Good and Bad Government,” by Italian artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti that hangs in Siena, Italy. The frescoes show the impacts of both good and bad government on the everyday lives of ordinary people in 14th century Siena. Lorenzetti contrasts the stark difference between good government, characterized by justice, concord, peace; and bad government, featuring tyranny, treason, and fury.

“Lorenzetti warns us that we must recognize the shadows of avarice, fraud, division, and even tyranny when they float across our political landscape. Especially when those shadows are cast by political leaders loudly claiming to be the voice of good government,” said Romero in the TED talk. “And we must act.... We must disrupt the amoral accretion of power by those who would betray our values. We the people must stay in the streets. Disruptive, messy, loud —that is what democracy looks like.”

The video and transcript of Romero’s TED talk can be found at:

Details of Lorenzetti’s frescoes can be found here:


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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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