It’s been a long time since I have felt proud to be an American, grateful yes, but proud, no. Wednesday in Fresno, at the special event – Can California Be Fixed? A Community Conversation about Critical Issues Facing Our Region –that changed. It became clear to me that the blame game is over, a sense of entitlement is melting away, and citizens once again are willing to step up and take responsibility for themselves and their community.
In our community, we have been working on transformation for years. We remind people they are a citizen first, that no one is coming, and that we have everything we need to solve our own problems. We are all on an Apollo 13 mission. While we may have to figure out how to put things together in new ways, if we all put our stuff on the table, we will discover we have had what we needed all along. While we have been encouraged about local changes, few had much hope that that anything could be done about the state.
Today, I believe California Forward – represented by one of our most effective citizen leaders, Pete Weber – made us believers. Of course, we can fix California – We the people, that is. For too long, we have defaulted on our responsibilities as citizens. We disabled ourselves. Somehow it seemed easier to think that government could raise our children, take care of our health, save for our retirement, educate us, or keep the peace. Even worse, the most capable of our leadership abandoned their civic responsibilities while at the same time fretting about those who filled the vacuum.
I am grateful that the foundations of California, highly seasoned leaders of all kinds, and an extraordinary staff stepped up to remind us that democracy is a verb. The price of freedom is steep. Who is not humbled watching the Egyptians rebel against tyranny and corruption. I believe the rebel spirit lies within every American, and California Forward is unleashing it in our state.
No more hiding behind words like stakeholder. It’s time to come to the table as a citizen—period. Whatever specific talents or insights you have due to your job or life experience, offer them. Step above the level of intramural sports and remember your responsibilities to the whole. Until we do that as citizens, the people we elect to serve us will continue to listen to single interests or the siren’s call of ambition. Standing united, we can create a California that will make our children and grandchildren proud and grateful.
The Feb. 2 community conversation at the CSU Fresno Business Center was co-sponsored by California Forward, the Fresno Business Council and the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.
Deborah Nankivell is the CEO of the Fresno Business Council.