08/10/2011

Dispatches from the changing American Dream

As California works to right its economy and deal in a meaningful way with the challenges it faces, we are reminded of the role we as citizens and voters can play in the process.

Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief of the AOL Huffington Post says the solution lies within ourselves and reminds us to get involved, play a role in our communities, and pay attention to what’s going on in government at all levels – from local to state to national.

Here is an excerpt from her recent article.

(At last week’s National Association of Black Journalists Convention), the mood was somber.

But what I sensed at the convention wasn't anger (though that would certainly be justified), but a pervasive feeling that things would not be getting better any time soon. There was still a lot of support for President Obama in the room, but not a lot of faith that, for the foreseeable future, Washington is going to be capable of doing anything meaningful to make life better for the majority of Americans.

(In addition to the recent standoff over the debt ceiling), our economy has slowed down to 1.3 percent growth (far below the sustained 2.5 percent level we need to even have a chance at lowering the unemployment rate), nine states are about to cut unemployment benefits, and, of course, our debt rating has just been downgraded.

So it's no wonder people have lost faith that our broken political system will produce solutions to improve their lives. The question becomes: what now?

Well, one place to start is with ourselves. Our politicians have chosen to narrow their imaginations, but they can't narrow ours. Even if we can't control how Washington responds to our problems, we still have control over how we respond to them.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a dinner in Washington, right as the debt-ceiling debate was reaching its crescendo (or, more accurately, its nadir). The guests included a wide range of Washington insiders, and as the dinner was coming to an end, there had been little in our discussion to be hopeful about.

Glancing across the table at Tim Shriver, head of the Special Olympics, I suggested that before we all trudged out into the night, Tim might be able to offer something to lift our spirits. To do so, Shriver turned to his work with the Special Olympics -- and people's ability to overcome massive challenges.

"I think," he said, "that a lot of political leaders have succumbed to the idea that we're no longer a country of ideals, but a country of interests; that we're not a country of sacrifice, but a country of selfish people. I don't think they are trying to reach out to the people to say, 'you've got a role to play, and we need your help.' In the Special Olympics movement, I ask big things of people every single day. And in asking big things of others, I think we unlock a side of the human experience that is the seat of excitement and enthusiasm... indeed, of the human spirit."

To read Huffington’s full article, click here.

To read about Forward Thinkers throughout California who are working to fill a void left by government, go to our Forward Thinkers page.

Categories: Forward Thinkers, Civic Engagement

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