David Sweeney: Shared History as a Unifying Tool for America’s Political Polarization
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with David Sweeney, the Senior Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations with the White House Historical Association. Let’s see how he is making a difference in this world.
Spiffy: It’s wonderful to have you here with us, David, welcome! Can you tell me what challenge you are addressing through the White House Historical Association?
David: Honored to be here, Spiffy, thanks for the invite! The White House Historical Association has decided to make civics and history education a top priority. The White House, as an institution, is a unifying symbol for the American people and the Association is well-positioned to address the division and polarization that we witness in America. Telling the history of the White House reminds all Americans of our shared identity and establishes community through patriotism. Additionally, civics education helps people understand our institutions and their role in a democracy. An understanding of the civic and political processes strengthens them by creating trust and encouraging participation.
Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?
David: The motivation to address the polarization and weakening of our democratic institutions was born from my experience of working in congressional affairs in Washington, DC. I saw how bitter partisanship was a barrier to success. The January 6 riot at the US Capitol was evidence that the polarization had spread from the political system and into our social fabric. Having always been a lover of history, my knowledge of it has led me to be an eternal optimist. Most situations have been dealt with before, and in the case of the US, the nation has witnessed worse crises than we have today. Knowing that and knowing that the past was overcome helps me see how the problems of today can be solved. If more people knew more history we would be happier.
Spiffy: That’s a positive and proactive way of looking at it! What would you say is the impact of your work?
David: The Association works to preserve the collections and stories of the White House to inspire Americans, especially young people, to, as Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy once said, "stimulate their sense of history and their pride in their country." This should also help young people to understand the political and democratic institutions, and strengthen them by helping them to participate in civic engagement throughout their lives.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, David—it’s been an honor!
As a highly motivated public policy professional, David Sweeney has thus far dedicated his career to promoting ideas that aim to improve our society and enrich people’s lives. He has, by utilizing exceptional communication skills and a passion for learning, established diverse relationships and built strategic partnerships across the public and private sectors to help inform decisions that achieve better economic and social outcomes. (Nominated by Aidan Dowdle at Verdethos. First published on the Ladderworks website on January 30, 2023.)
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.