Petitioning the government is so important that the Founding Fathers codified it in the last line of the First Amendment of the Constitution: “the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This was the digital realization of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other American luminaries from the Revolution.
To emphasize the significance of this initiative, we needed a name with historical gravitas, drawing a direct link between the founding of our country and the delivery of this digital platform. Nothing seemed more appropriate than the three most famous words in U.S. history — We the People — in the preamble to the United States Constitution.
Very rarely, if ever, does one get the privilege of having the President of the United States mention their work, let alone to an audience of world leaders. On September 20th, 2011 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the President gave his remarks in front of a room full of world leaders about the importance of open government. In his words, he made the commitment that we would be launching ‘We the People’ the next day, and ultimately open source the tool so any government around the world would be able to use it (watch the video below).
The platform galvanized people around good ideas, and streamlined the process for bringing attention to critical issues. Over 500,000 petitions were posted, including 40 million signatures from people around the United States and the world.
One of the earliest high-impact petitions on the platform occurred in early 2012. After collecting over 100,000 signatures online, a grassroots movement pushed the White House to reevaluate its position on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), changing the course of legislative history.
Through ‘We the People’, the people spoke, and the president listened — a process made possible by open source technology.