The Community Organizer Presidency

Last week, somewhat unheralded, Michelle Obama called on all of us to take part in a national day of service on Monday, Jan. 19th, also Martin Luther King day. The idea is as follows:

It will take ordinary citizens working together with a common purpose to get this country back on track. This national day of service is an important first step in our continuing commitment.

Today, MoveOn joined the call (via e-mail):

On Tuesday, Barack will officially start the massive job of restoring our country. As president, he plans to expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps and to create new service organizations1, including:

  • a Classroom Corps to help underserved schools;
  • a Health Corps to serve in the nation's clinics and hospitals;
  • a Clean Energy Corps to achieve the goal of energy independence; and
  • a Veterans Corps to support the Americans who serve in harm's way.

But on Monday, Barack, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia will still be ordinary citizens, volunteering to help their new neighbors in Washington, D.C. Can you join them by volunteering near [insert your hometown here]?

You can sign up to find an event near you HERE. Have you signed up? If you're planning to be in DC, you can help out at this event.

The point here isn't to spend one day helping people, of course, but rather to kick start a longterm community service effort, as an Obama e-mail sent back in December made clear.

"Unlike past calls to service, President-elect Obama will ask Americans to do more than just offer a single day of service to their cities, towns and neighborhoods," the e-mail said. "He will ask all of us to make an ongoing commitment to our communities. Never has it been more important to come together in shared purpose to tackle the common challenges we face."

Welcome the community organizer presidency.

If you haven't watched Michelle's video, check it out below:

Tags: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

Re: The Community

I'll be at work on Monday.   As in at my J.O.B.   Maybe they should have scheduled a Sat.   .... Wait my team plays at noon.

I'll check my schedule and give Barry a call.

by RichardFlatts 2009-01-16 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The Community

You've got to work on Martin Luther King Day? Bummer.

Sadly, it's the case for many people, but if ever there was a national holiday worth getting off, I think honoring one of the most influential and meaningful citizens of this country would be one of them. Thankfully, ever so slowly, a lot of employers are starting to give people the day off.

I also think that turning the holiday into a day of service to our communities is a great way of remembering Dr. King. As I'm fortunate enough to have Monday off, I'll be seeing what I can do.

by Fitzy 2009-01-16 11:19AM | 0 recs
Organizing not the same as service

This call for community service is wonderful. But we should be clear that community service is different from community organizing. Community service usually means working for a community service organization providing a service to people in need: children, elders, sick people, hungry people, homeless people, etc.

Community organizing means to build an organization that can make changes in the political or economic system, usually by challenging powerful institutions that stand in the way. Community service is like giving a person a fish so she/he will eat for a day, and community organizing is like teaching a person (and her/his friends) to fish and then helping them buy a boat so they can fish whenever they need to and helping them challenge the state fishing license laws that enable large corporate fishing companies, but prevent individuals from fishing.

One way to begin to do community organizing is to ask people to do community service and then once they show up, work a bit, and learn about all the unmet community needs, ask them to form an organization that is dedicated to bringing about institutional change. Also, once a community change organization has come together, it is may also ask people to do community service to demonstrate that it is a benign organization that cares about people in the community and to build goodwill with that community (and the larger community).

So there is some overlap between these two kinds of community work. But they are different and we should not fuzz them together.

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.
-- Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian Archbishop

by RandomNonviolence 2009-01-16 01:10PM | 0 recs

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