Katie Couric's Notebook: Town Halls

In the 19th Century, the French writer de Tocqueville came to America to see democracy in action and he witnessed its purest form -- the New England town meeting.

Townspeople came together to govern their communities.

And de Tocqueville said town meetings teach people how to use democracy, and how to enjoy it.

James Madison meanwhile had a different opinion. At town meetings, he wrote, "passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason."

In modern times, politicians have borrowed the term "town meeting" for their forums with supporters - and, can we please not call them "town halls?"

A town hall is a building. It's like calling a baseball game a baseball stadium.

And now, the town meeting has evolved yet again. It's become the center of the debate over health care, the audience often well-organized and very scripted.

Not exactly what de Tocqueville or Madison witnessed, but the passion and enjoyment of democracy goes on.

That's a page from my notebook.