The other night, instead of telling us what their candidate plans to do in office, Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin chose to mock the significant life experience of Barack Obama.
They seem to have contempt for community organizing. What is it they find so contemptible? The people of our national community? The fact that, with the skilled guidance of organizers, those people are more powerful than any politician or any one party will ever be?
I spend my days (and sometimes my nights) working to raise funds and friends for an amazing group of skilled professional organizers and about 75 teenage organizers who work for the Hyde Square Task Force in the Roxbury and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods of Boston. I work so hard to support them because the work they do is unique and essential in our community. Last fall, our youth used sophisticated organizing tactics like identifying targets, power analysis, utilizing the media and negotiation to persuade the mayor and school superintendent of Boston that they should add a dynamic civics class to the city’s high schools. This summer, the youth labored with 2 curriculum writers and the head of history and wrought the curriculum they believe will make all students of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) as thoughtful and active as they are.
As a former BPS teacher myself, I can tell you that these “kids” have accomplished more meaningful reform in one year than BPS, and indeed, the federal government has in more than ten.
As someone who has seen first hand the results of community organizing on an inner city neighborhood, I can say that organizing is, in fact, the perfect preparation to be president at a time when reform is so sorely needed. Unlike lifetime bureaucrats, who tend to become part of the problem, community organizers come from the outside, analyze the problems, determine what the community needs—what the people need—and then set about strategic action and negotiation to help the people get those demands met. Good organizers are able to get people fired up; a leader who makes moving speeches about hope and the need for change is exactly what helps mobilize the power of the people to make that change.
No, organizers don’t have responsibilities-- to lobbyists or special interests or even to themselves. In fact, their greatest responsibility is to the people with whom they work. It’s not the positions they’ve held that prove their worth—it’s the skills. They understand how to navigate complicated political terrain—how to bring opposing parties to the table. I believe these are exactly the qualities we need in a leader today.
Yes, the Republicans show a great deal of contempt for great Americans like Barack Obama who do tough, selfless, essential work for little compensation, but I’m not sure that’s what they really feel. It's possible that contempt masks a fear that a President Obama might help bring about changes to a status quo that’s pretty good for the fat cats who run the Grande Olde Party.
How happy are you with how things are today? With the help of a few good organizers, some good people, and a great president we might just be able to change them.
- "...How to Make AYP Work...", American Educator Magazine
- "America's Final Mission in Iraq," Chaim Kaufmann, The Boston Globe, 2/11/2007
- "Despite Challenges, N.H. Primary Thrives" The Boston Globe
- "Hypermilers Squeeze Every Drop Out of a GasTank," by Chris Williams, The Boston Globe, 6/3/2007
- "King of the Hypermilers," by Dennis Gaffney, Mother Jones, Jan-Feb 2007
- "What do pants and the space shuttle have in common?" Hiawatha Bray, The Boston Globe, 11/13/2006
- Brown Alumni Monthly: "The New Atomic Scientists" Sept./Oct. 2006
- Here & Now Story : "Schoolyard Game Banned" 10/20/2006
- Hot Air (blog): full text of David Mackett's comments
- Mass. Driver's Manual, Chapter 4 (Signs)
- Netflix: West Wing Season 7, 2005 (including "King Corn")
- WBUR Boston
- Woodrow Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies