Today's Americans are not the creators of our democracy but its inheritors. Does this fact impose a moral obligation on us to help others trying to create their own? Most Americans believe it does.
Is it in our national interest to promote the growth of democracy elsewhere? Most Americans believe it is. We know that a world ''made safe for democracy'' is in fact a safer world, and a more humane one as well.
For more than 200 years the idea and ideal of America have motivated men and women everywhere to dream of and work for freedom. We also have helped other nations create durable democratic institutions where history gave us the responsibility and power to do so, most notably in postwar Germany and Japan.
The question now is whether we can do even more to assist democratic development where our help is sought by local individuals seeking to create institutions of freedom.
Finding an answer to this question is the purpose of the bipartisan study announced by President Reagan in his London speech on June 8. This is not a government project but a private sector effort by the leaders of our Republican and Democratic parties acting through the American Political Foundation of which they are directors.
Impetus for the inquiry came from the pioneering example of the West German political party foundations. West Germany, like the United States, has many academic, business, church, labor, and other organizations engaged in cultural and social development work overseas. But only its party-related foundations have the motivation and expertise to help critically important institution-building in the political area that other foundations shy away from.
Lately, as West Germans have become more confident of their own society and more involved in world affairs, the foundations have developed a range of international programs on which they now spend about $100 million annually, mostly in third-world countries.
These German efforts were decisive in preventing a communist takeover of Portugal in the mid-1970s, and have been notably successful in easing the transition to democracy in Spain. Throughout the third world the foundations provide schools, training programs, public opinion sampling and organizational expertise, and a wide variety of other assistance to political parties, citizens' organizations, labor unions, business groups, and government development programs where local people are working to develop democracy.
The West German parties are more ideological than ours. Each foundation tends to work abroad with partners who are ideologically compatible. Thus, they sometimes support competing forces in other countries. Germans welcome this as building the pluralism without which democracy has little meaning; and their assistance is accepted through most of the world because of its honest reflection of their political system.
The burgeoning democratic forces around the world need not only more help than the Germans can give but also the knowledge that they have many friends elsewhere - that what they are doing is appreciated as part of a broader human effort of importance to all.
Can the politically active sectors of American society - our parties, businesses, labor unions, etc., - devise means that are an honest reflection of our system to help in what President Reagan has called this ''global campaign for democracy''?
Can we promote the attitudes, institutions, social infrastructure, and practical skills of democratic life in a way compatible with the relatively nonideological spirit of American politics?
Can we structure a set of effective programs which will command bipartisan support? Will we find the people and the money to do the job? Will we be able to act consistently with the basic democratic commitment of our country even though this may on occasion involve tensions with the immediate requirements of our government's foreign policy?
We believe the answers to all these questions and more will be affirmative.
In any event, we are convinced that it is of overriding importance to find out; and we are committed to doing so. This is why the chairmen of the Democratic and Republican National Committees and leaders of business, labor, and other sectors of American life are joining together in the American Political Foundation's study of programs to develop democratic forces abroad. We hope to have answers to the many practical and policy problems by early next year, and look forward to agreeing on recommendations that will command wide support.
It is important that we succeed, for, in the final analysis, as long as others lack the opportunity of freedom we will be less secure in ours