The Better Angels Declaration of Interdependence: 

Our Mission, Vision, and Values in Eight Bullet Points

  • We share stories about our core values – courage, compassion, continuous learning, community service, and fun.
  • We challenge others to fear not, pay attention, think twice, and help the helpers.
  • We celebrate education, moral behavior, servant leadership, and good humor.
  • We fight against fear, hatred, ignorance, apathy, and greed.
  • We choose collaboration over competition, hope over cynicism, harmony over unity.
  • We believe that the meek have already inherited the earth.
  • We help others help others.
  • We trust others to help us help others help others.


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November 29, 2022 Newsletter Second Revision

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November 25, 2022 Newsletter

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The Better Angels Rivalliance takes its name from Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, which has been called a “team of rivals” who set aside their serious differences to collaborate for the good of the nation in its most perilous plight. This is especially appropriate because Lincoln himself called for guidance from “the better angels of our nature” in his first inaugural address. 


The notion that individual, organizational, political, and religious rivals can participate in a creative alliance is not new, though in this era of extreme political partisanship it may seem unrealistic. A key to understanding how a Rivalliance can work, however, has been obvious for generations. At the global political level, the United Nations was founded in the wake of World War Two as an arena for discussion, compromise, and collaboration among nations who had previously fought each other to the death. It’s no accident that the UN learned from the failure of the League of Nations after World War One. The UN Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, provided a blueprint for a global community of respect and collaboration.


At a more modest level but in an equally significant context, individual athletes in a wide variety of athletic events collaborate on teams to compete with other athletes on other teams, and the competition is mostly for fun, though prestige can be involved, and – in the case of professional sports – money may the on the line. In many team sports, members of both teams shake hands with members of the opposing team after each game, and sometimes before each game as well. The energy of play is especially powerful when we recognize that playing is what little kids do instinctively and joyfully, which means that they are learning valuable lessons by playing, competing, and collaborating, though they may never realize they are learning valuable lessons. 


Nowadays, interscholastic, intercollegiate, and professional sports play significant roles in the cultural and social development of citizens around the world. Amateur and professional sports both played decisive roles in the march toward racial and gender-based equity, as athletes like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Serena and Venus Williams, a majority of players in the National Basketball Association, and all the players in the National Women’s Basketball Association attest. 


Even the most fanatical of sports fans know that sports and games are just sports and games. (The word “fan” itself is just short for the word “fanatic.”) Opponents on high-school teams may go on to be teammates in college, and opponents in college may go on to be teammates in a pro league or in an adult amateur league. As parents, they may watch their sons and daughters collaborate, compete, and play with each other on the court, on the field, or in the arena.


The Better Angels Rivalliance hopes to galvanize the energy and creativity of rivals pulling together for compatible goals and common causes, just as Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals” did to abolish slavery while saving the nation. Just as high schools and colleges form athletic conferences to support both competition and collaboration, and just as professional teams band together within the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, and other athletic conferences, the Better Angels Rivaliance will support an array of nonprofit organizations, schools, libraries, and faith communities who normally compete with each other for human and financial resources. Together, we can help each other help each other while teaming up to break down barriers of racism, sexism, poverty, and political partisanship.



The passage of the Woman Suffrage amendment to the US Constitution and the founding of the League of Women Voters in 1920 kicked off a decade of dramatic and often contradictory events which eventually became known as the “Roaring Twenties.” Prohibition made the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol illegal – which paradoxically led to widespread turmoil as criminalizing alcohol led to the takeover of the alcohol industry by criminals. Meanwhile, new intersections of art, commerce, education, and technology like moving pictures, jazz music, automobiles, and airplanes made for dramatic upheavals in social norms and accepted behavior, especially in relation to issues of race and gender. In the last year of the Roaring Twenties, the stock market crashed and ushered in the Great Depression – the worst economic calamity in several generations.



The Roaring Twenties were not called the Roaring Twenties until the middle of the decade, when it became clear what a roaring upheaval was actually going on. Here at Our Better Angels, despite the calamities and struggles of the Covid 19 pandemic and extreme political partisanship, we hope to contribute to a soaring rise of the human spirit over the coming decade. Thus we are dubbing it “The Soaring Twenties.” People living in the Roaring Twenties eventually recognized what a roaring drama was unfolding; by contrast, the Soaring Twenties is a prediction, a forecast, and a metaphor based on our faith in the human spirit, in the promise of democratic governance, and in the capacity for future generations to learn from the experience and wisdom of our ancestors and ourselves.

As our 2020 Vision Project suggests, the property of clear vision – vision capable of seeing into the future – is the primary quality we associate with people we call “visionaries.” That is also a quality we logically associate with pioneers – in other words, with people who go out ahead of a group to find the way and then point the way to help others find the way.


Here in Ripon, Wisconsin, our heritage seems chock full of visionaries and pioneers. The pioneers who founded our community in the first place were social visionaries who created a communal village called Ceresco in 1844, similar to the Brook Farm experiment in Massachusetts, where Ralph Waldo Emerson and others pioneered collaborative strategies to solve the political problems of their day.


Shortly after Ceresco gave way to the City of Ripon, a few visionary citizens founded Ripon College in 1851 to attract settlers who valued higher education. In 1854, a group of Ripon citizens met in their community’s Little White Schoolhouse to declare the founding of a new political party dedicated to the abolition of slavery. They called themselves “Republicans,” and it only took the Republican Party two national elections to elect the first Republican President of the United States. In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln called for the guidance of “the better angels of our nature.”


Two years before Lincoln’s first inaugural address, Carrie Lane was born on Spaulding Street in Ripon. As an adult, Carrie Lane Chapman Catt led the National American Woman Suffrage Association to victory in 1920 with ratification of the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the US Constitution, just months after she also founded the League of Women Voters to support voter education. Thus the 2020 Vision metaphor gained extra relevance as the nation celebrated the centennial of Carrie Catt’s triumphs.


2020 also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day celebration and the publication of Robert Greenleaf’s epochal essay, "The Servant as Leader," which launched the global servant leadership movement. Both of these anniversaries also resonate here in Ripon. The founder of Earth Day, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, was awarded an honorary degree from Ripon College, which also created the world’s first undergraduate program in Leadership Studies. The College still hosts an endowed faculty position in servant leadership.


In 1995, Ripon College also became the headquarters of the Wisconsin Leadership Institute, which in turn created Our Better Angels as a subsidiary in 2015 to support an array of educational Good Causes devoted to servant leadership and enlightened citizenship.

Ripon, Wisconsin: OBA's Home Town

Photo by Craig Tebon

 Photo by Craig Tebon


Our Better Angels is a qualified subsidiary of the Wisconsin Leadership Institute, which has its headquarters on the campus of Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin. Thus we already enjoy supportive and productive relationships with several organizations and hundreds of individuals in our home town. The City of Ripon itself gained historic significance back in 1854 when the first gathering of anti-slavery citizens met in Ripon’s “Little White Schoolhouse” to declare the founding of a new political party with the name “Republican.”

Our Better Angels, in fact, takes its name from the first inaugural address of the first Republican US President, Abraham Lincoln, who ended that address by invoking the guidance of “the better angels of our nature.” Each item on the list below links to the local affiliate organizations of Our Better Angels. In some cases, local Ripon organizations are linked to national and global organizations.


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