DE PERE, Wis. (CNS) – Harry Boyte sees democracy in crisis, but he’s hopeful that’s about to change. He finds that American society and societies around the world are undergoing “an unraveling of the civic fabric” highlighted by acrimony and prejudice, a world in which people with differing opinions cannot converse, where places where those conversations might be held are disappearing. However, “we are at the threshold of another stage around civic engagement,” said the founder of an institute for the development of citizen-driven democracy and an acclaimed civic education/empowerment initiative for young people, he said. His optimism is buoyed by actions such as the student-led protests to ban assault weapons following the shooting massacre at the high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. “Young people hunger for hope, and they have a capacity for hope,” Boyte recently told a lecture audience at Saint Norbert College. “The question is, ‘How can those be more than protests? How can we take that developing energy and shape it into deep change?’” Boyte, 72, was on the De Pere campus Feb. 23 to receive the Saint Norbert Ambassador of Peace Award, given annually to an individual who has been an influential advocate for sustainable peace.