Politicolor is fuel for the civic-minded

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

—James Madison

We don’t do politics like other places on the web.

Some people like playing politics by tossing small questions back-and-forth and seeing nothing but red vs. blue at stake in the answers. There are plenty of other spaces for displays of partisan loyalty.

Politicolor is a space for people who believe participation in political life is how we contribute to one of the most important projects of mankind, self-government.

This makes Politicolor an act of resistance too.

We willingly color outside the lines and follow different wavelengths. Politicolor calls together a community interested in understanding political life through curiosity and open inquiry. We believe in the power of thinking together.

Politicolor will help you tune your attention to the questions, ideas, and good work of a political life worth sharing.


Let’s make thinking together our shared mission.

We believe in the power of thinking together. We’re here to make that easier to do so we offer:

A free newsletter: Questions of Civic Proportions, featuring the questions, ideas, and good work that lend extra power to the civic-minded.

A small act of thinking together, Questions of Civic Proportions arrives every other week with a short note and a set of questions that frame today’s questions in terms of American political thought and constitutional thinking.


Online book club: #CitizensRead, with a reading list for an engaged citizenry.

A commitment to reading like it’s a civic duty, our #CitizensRead book club highlights titles taking up questions of self-government, constitutional thinking, and our shared political life. We focus on one title every 4 to 6 weeks with email reminders, reading plans, and discussion questions.


Learning community: Civic Learning Studio, where we can think together through the questions, ideas, and good work of a political life worth sharing.

A free online space where you’re sure to find the civic dialogue we all imagined social media might make possible. This dedicated platform allows us to focus on civic questions and thinking together with no need to dodge cat videos, partisan memes, and misinformation campaigns.


Join a community that believes in the power of thinking together.

We designed our Questions of Civic Proportions Newsletter to help you tune your attention to the questions, ideas, and good work of a political life worth sharing. Subscribe to get a copy and let us know what you think.

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Why is this about color?

Plato started it. He described democracy as “the fairest of the regimes… Just like a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.” 

Also, Politicolor got its start in 2007 through a learning community that gathered for the National Academy for Civics and Government. A model of political order as seven boxes of different colors guided our study there. Each color represents a different relationship for a constitutional citizen. You can learn more about this model and the relationships it represents here (coming soon!). 

Light comes to us in color. James Madison often described the work of self-government as fighting against darkness with light. We imagine Politicolor bringing light to the public mind too. 


Despotism can only exist in darkness, and there are too many lights now in the political firmament, to permit it to remain anywhere, as it has heretofore done, almost everywhere.

—James Madison

Who are the people behind Politicolor?

Shellee O’Brien

Founding Editor

Shellee has made a career of civic life. A former classroom teacher, she decided to collect her own experiences in everything we call political. She has worked to implement policy at the state level, organized local campaigns, and managed volunteer teams.

Shellee completed her PhD in Political Science (American Political Thought) at the University of Houston and has worked as faculty at the National Academy for Civics and Government, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (2003-2017).

National Academy for Civics and Government

Alumni and Guest Writers

 A Summer Institute on “Political and Constitutional Theory for Citizens,” the National Academy for Civics and Government first convened in 1997. The last NEH-funded session in 2017 marked the 16th session led by Will Harris from the University of Pennsylvania, currently the Academic Director at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

The National Academy now represents a learning community of 300+ educators who continue to seek out opportunities to discuss American political life.

Keith Gall

Contributing Writer

A former Montessori teacher from suburban Detroit, Keith survived the National Academy in 2007 and subsequently returned to work as faculty. In one crucial way, Politicolor owes its beginnings to a photo essay Keith created during his first week as a citizen-scholar at the National Academy.

The first post on the site, Keith’s “A Day at the Beach” offers insight into what it looks like to study at the National Academy. You start to see political theory in everything.