We Need to Build

Field Notes for Diverse Democracy

Author Eboo Patel
Ebook
On sale May 10, 2022 | 224 Pages | 978-0-8070-2407-2
From the former faith adviser to President Obama comes an inspirational guide for those who seek to promote positive social change and build a more diverse and just democracy

The goal of social change work is not a more ferocious revolution; it is a more beautiful social order. It is harder to organize a fair trial than it is to fire up a crowd, more challenging to build a good school than it is to tell others they are doing education all wrong. But every decent society requires fair trials and good schools, and that’s just the beginning of the list of institutions and structures that need to be efficiently created and effectively run in large-scale diverse democracy.

 
We Need to Build is a call to create those institutions and a guide for how to run them well.
 
In his youth, Eboo Patel was inspired by love-based activists like John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Badshah Khan, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Their example, and a timely challenge to build the change he wanted to see, led to a life engaged in the particulars of building, nourishing, and sustaining an institution that seeks to promote positive social change—Interfaith America. Now, drawing on his twenty years of experience, Patel tells the stories of what he’s learned and how, in the process, he came to construct as much as critique and collaborate more than oppose.
 
His challenge to us is clear: those of us committed to refounding America as a just and inclusive democracy need to defeat the things we don’t like by building the things we do.
"A centrist call to actively build—rather than passively critique—civic institutions."
Kirkus Reviews

"Patel wants to build, and help others build, institutions to do all of this good work. He wants to inspire and train new civic leaders who nurture pluralism and community that is welcoming."
—Jon W. McSweeney, Spirituality & Practice

“Revelatory and profoundly timely! This is the essential handbook for every activist ready to move from resisting injustice to rebuilding a world of justice. A legendary builder and visionary teacher, Eboo Patel gives us the blueprint for how to build institutions that will birth the beloved community.”
—Valarie Kaur, author of See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love

“Eboo Patel is one of America’s most visionary civic leaders and one of our most vital bridge builders. We Need to Build is both a blueprint and a guidebook for an inclusive twenty-first-century democracy. Read this book!”
—Van Jones, author of Beyond the Messy Truth

“In this moment in civic life, we need institutional leaders who can absorb radical critiques—and radical critics who can build institutions. Eboo Patel is both, and he has the self-awareness and standing to send both messages to both parties. This bracing, necessary book is a guide for deep civic renewal.”
—Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University

“Eboo Patel holds a singular place in American life and thought. His expertise on the pluralistic religious reality of twenty-first-century life has influenced virtually every major field—from education to the workplace to political policy and culture. We Need to Build comes at precisely the right moment to become a key handbook for navigating the transformative healing—the building—that our world of fracture and disarray so urgently demands.”
—Krista Tippett, author of Being Wise and host of On Being

“Eboo Patel has long served as one of America’s most trusted and impactful leaders for religious pluralism. In his latest book, We Need to Build, Patel provides an invaluable and must-read road map filled with practical wisdom and timely prescriptions to help all of us better build the thriving organizations and communities and healthy democracy we so desperately need.”
—Rev. Adam Taylor, president of Sojourners and author of A More Perfect Union

“In fractious times, Eboo Patel draws on the lessons he’s gleaned from his own inspiring journey to offer us the thing we need most—a credible path to hope and reconciliation.”
—David Axelrod, author of Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
Named “one of America’s best leaders” by U.S. News and World Report, Eboo Patel is Founder and President of Interfaith America, the leading interfaith organization in the United States. Under his leadership, Interfaith America has worked with governments, universities, private companies, and civic organizations to make faith a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. Eboo served on President Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council, has given hundreds of keynote addresses, and has written five books. He is an Ashoka Fellow and holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. Eboo lives in Chicago with his wife, Shehnaz, and their two sons.
Introduction

SECTION ONE: CRITICS AND BUILDERS

CHAPTER ONE
Critic: A Personal Journey

CHAPTER TWO
Builder, Creating Interfaith America

CHAPTER THREE
Jen Bailey, Critic and Builder

CHAPTER FOUR
Campus as Crucible

SECTION TWO: THE GOOD SOCIETY

CHAPTER FIVE
America, the People’s Potluck

CHAPTER SIX
The Obama Story, the Trump Story

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Genius of Religious Institutions

SECTION THREE: CONSIDERATIONS AND CAUTIONS

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Challenge of Being in Charge

CHAPTER NINE
Align the Substantive and the Symbolic

CHAPTER TEN
Be Guided by a Vision For, Not an Anger Against

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Embrace Diversity, Including the Differences You Don’t Like

CHAPTER TWELVE
Embrace the Multiple Languages of Social Change

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Be Careful Turning Identity Categories into Ideological Categories

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
Seek Solutions, Then Seek Scale

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Welcome All Allies

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Persuade Your Opponents

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
Consider Constructive Engagement Before You Cancel

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
Stand on the Balcony and Think of a Hedgehog

CHAPTER NINETEEN
Appreciate the History of Your Movement, Then Extend It

CHAPTER TWENTY
Be Cautious About Becoming a Symbol

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
Be Cautious About Making Generalizations and Speaking for Others

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
Be Cautious of the Single Story

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
Be Cautious About the False Social Map

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
Be Cautious When Accusing Others

CONCLUSION
A Letter to My Sons, Future Builders of Diverse Democracy

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

About

From the former faith adviser to President Obama comes an inspirational guide for those who seek to promote positive social change and build a more diverse and just democracy

The goal of social change work is not a more ferocious revolution; it is a more beautiful social order. It is harder to organize a fair trial than it is to fire up a crowd, more challenging to build a good school than it is to tell others they are doing education all wrong. But every decent society requires fair trials and good schools, and that’s just the beginning of the list of institutions and structures that need to be efficiently created and effectively run in large-scale diverse democracy.

 
We Need to Build is a call to create those institutions and a guide for how to run them well.
 
In his youth, Eboo Patel was inspired by love-based activists like John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Badshah Khan, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Their example, and a timely challenge to build the change he wanted to see, led to a life engaged in the particulars of building, nourishing, and sustaining an institution that seeks to promote positive social change—Interfaith America. Now, drawing on his twenty years of experience, Patel tells the stories of what he’s learned and how, in the process, he came to construct as much as critique and collaborate more than oppose.
 
His challenge to us is clear: those of us committed to refounding America as a just and inclusive democracy need to defeat the things we don’t like by building the things we do.

Praise

"A centrist call to actively build—rather than passively critique—civic institutions."
Kirkus Reviews

"Patel wants to build, and help others build, institutions to do all of this good work. He wants to inspire and train new civic leaders who nurture pluralism and community that is welcoming."
—Jon W. McSweeney, Spirituality & Practice

“Revelatory and profoundly timely! This is the essential handbook for every activist ready to move from resisting injustice to rebuilding a world of justice. A legendary builder and visionary teacher, Eboo Patel gives us the blueprint for how to build institutions that will birth the beloved community.”
—Valarie Kaur, author of See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love

“Eboo Patel is one of America’s most visionary civic leaders and one of our most vital bridge builders. We Need to Build is both a blueprint and a guidebook for an inclusive twenty-first-century democracy. Read this book!”
—Van Jones, author of Beyond the Messy Truth

“In this moment in civic life, we need institutional leaders who can absorb radical critiques—and radical critics who can build institutions. Eboo Patel is both, and he has the self-awareness and standing to send both messages to both parties. This bracing, necessary book is a guide for deep civic renewal.”
—Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University

“Eboo Patel holds a singular place in American life and thought. His expertise on the pluralistic religious reality of twenty-first-century life has influenced virtually every major field—from education to the workplace to political policy and culture. We Need to Build comes at precisely the right moment to become a key handbook for navigating the transformative healing—the building—that our world of fracture and disarray so urgently demands.”
—Krista Tippett, author of Being Wise and host of On Being

“Eboo Patel has long served as one of America’s most trusted and impactful leaders for religious pluralism. In his latest book, We Need to Build, Patel provides an invaluable and must-read road map filled with practical wisdom and timely prescriptions to help all of us better build the thriving organizations and communities and healthy democracy we so desperately need.”
—Rev. Adam Taylor, president of Sojourners and author of A More Perfect Union

“In fractious times, Eboo Patel draws on the lessons he’s gleaned from his own inspiring journey to offer us the thing we need most—a credible path to hope and reconciliation.”
—David Axelrod, author of Believer: My Forty Years in Politics

Author

Named “one of America’s best leaders” by U.S. News and World Report, Eboo Patel is Founder and President of Interfaith America, the leading interfaith organization in the United States. Under his leadership, Interfaith America has worked with governments, universities, private companies, and civic organizations to make faith a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. Eboo served on President Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council, has given hundreds of keynote addresses, and has written five books. He is an Ashoka Fellow and holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. Eboo lives in Chicago with his wife, Shehnaz, and their two sons.

Table of Contents

Introduction

SECTION ONE: CRITICS AND BUILDERS

CHAPTER ONE
Critic: A Personal Journey

CHAPTER TWO
Builder, Creating Interfaith America

CHAPTER THREE
Jen Bailey, Critic and Builder

CHAPTER FOUR
Campus as Crucible

SECTION TWO: THE GOOD SOCIETY

CHAPTER FIVE
America, the People’s Potluck

CHAPTER SIX
The Obama Story, the Trump Story

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Genius of Religious Institutions

SECTION THREE: CONSIDERATIONS AND CAUTIONS

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Challenge of Being in Charge

CHAPTER NINE
Align the Substantive and the Symbolic

CHAPTER TEN
Be Guided by a Vision For, Not an Anger Against

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Embrace Diversity, Including the Differences You Don’t Like

CHAPTER TWELVE
Embrace the Multiple Languages of Social Change

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Be Careful Turning Identity Categories into Ideological Categories

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
Seek Solutions, Then Seek Scale

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Welcome All Allies

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Persuade Your Opponents

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
Consider Constructive Engagement Before You Cancel

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
Stand on the Balcony and Think of a Hedgehog

CHAPTER NINETEEN
Appreciate the History of Your Movement, Then Extend It

CHAPTER TWENTY
Be Cautious About Becoming a Symbol

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
Be Cautious About Making Generalizations and Speaking for Others

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
Be Cautious of the Single Story

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
Be Cautious About the False Social Map

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
Be Cautious When Accusing Others

CONCLUSION
A Letter to My Sons, Future Builders of Diverse Democracy

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index