My Salute to Community Organizers

As Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech ended Wednesday night I dashed off a tweet asking what’s the GOP’s issue with community organizers – figuring of course that I was probably being overly sensitive. Then overnight I found myself just one of thousands of voices. And why not?

My real disappointment came in reading Obama’s response when he said they were not talking about his work as a civil rights lawyer, law school lecturer, or lawmaker but of the “… three years I did right out of college.” He added that his time as community organizer is “only relevant” in that it shows his interest in struggling working families. What?

Shifting from criticism to commendation, they did put community organizers in the spotlight and the overwhelming conversation on blogs, twitter, Facebook and in hallways and on sidewalks raises awareness of and appreciation for these organizers. So let’s switch the focus from those three to the hundreds of thousands making change – here’s my salute to community organizers!

  • I salute the more than 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country doing great things like winning victories on thousands of issues through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy and voter participation. ACORN, the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people, draws them together.
  • Speaking of ACORN, I salute this organization which exists to support organizers and has been at the forefront of helping individuals secure their right to vote. They reached more than 1.68 million citizens in past registration drives leading up to the 2004 and 2006 elections and have a goal to help 1.2 million people register to vote in 26 states across the country for the 2008 election. You can get involved –read more.
  • I salute The Organizers’ Collaborative, a Boston-based organization established in 1999 to promote better use of technology by social change organizations throughout the US.
  • I salute the countless individuals behind resource websites like Links for Community Organizers & Activists.
  • I salute the founders of Integral Community Organizers social network for tapping the power of the social media for the cause.
  • I salute the bloggers and all the folks behind, a social action network™ where you can connect actions to entertainment to make change.
  • I salute the authors Joe Szakos and Kristin Layng Szakos of We Make Change – great book to read! Short article here.
  • I salute those famous (here’s a short list) organizers who in their fame help shine a light on the importance and the value of all community organizers.
  • I salute a community organizer from my home state, Lorraine Sheehan, who has blazed many paths in her life since she first made the choice to go the road less traveled when an educational professional told her it would be best to place her young son John in an institution because of autism. The path Lorraine chose would launch her into a career of advocacy and politics as she committed herself to creating a more inclusive world for her son – and for all of us. Our world is a better place because of this woman.
  • I salute the small gathering of parents who in 1950 gathered to find a way to create a better live for their children living with developmental disabilities. They are now part of Maryland’s statewide community of organizers united in The Arc of Maryland and its ten chapters around the state. They are changing minds and changing lives.
  • I salute the 800 people from around the world who for three days gathered at ASAE & The Center’s Global Summit on Social Responsibility to explore – and map out – the role that associations and nonprofits can play in both creating a better world.

I’ll guess that Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin and maybe Barack Obama will rue their ill-advised comments, but it’s much more important to us that we not worry about what others think and say but that we leave the world better than we found it when it’s our turn to leave.