If you ever have been so bored as to scroll down the blogroll on the sidebar to the left, you’ll see a category of links for “Other Stuff I Care About.” The Southern Law Poverty Center (SPLCenter) is amongst that stuff and the renewal form sitting beside me here at the home office tells me I’ve been a member since 1999.
The SPLCenter is a fabulous organization in Montgomery, Alabama, that was founded in 1971 by the civil rights attorneys, Morris Dees and Joe Levin. Their original mission was to fight racist, Neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic hate groups through litigation that caused the organizations to go broke. Their mission has since expanded to fight for the rights of any party victimized by discrimination, taking cases few other lawyers would pursue. In addition, SPLCenter hosts The Intelligence Project which tracks hate group activity around the US and Teaching Tolerance.
As the parent of a youngster in an area of the US with considerable racial and ethnic diversity, I have become particularly interested in the Teaching Tolerance project as the program aims to address and combat racism before it even emerges – Teaching Tolerance is “dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.” Beyond the resources for teachers, parents, kids, and teens available at Tolerance.org, the group publishes a biannual magazine for classroom use.
In this issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine, Barack Obama and John McCain both responded to requests for short essays on “how the next generation can get involved in the political process and grow more civic-minded to make America better.”
While the essays are rather brief, Senator McCain took his limited space to stress that leaders have not tapped into the passion of young people who wish to be agents of change in their communities and the world, and expressed his admiration for those who have:
With so much at stake in this election, I am proud to witness the involvement of this new generation of Americans. They understand their participation is not limited to the ballot box: they are volunteering their time and effort to improve the well-being of our country. . .
. . .After 9/11, leaders in Washington missed an opportunity to call young people to service. Young men and women, who are willing to give of themselves and sacrifice, want a leader who will ask something of them. . .
. . .Young people understand the power that the political process wields as a force for change, and they are actively engaged in harnessing that power to bring about change for their families, their communities and their world. I see, in the efforts and enthusiasm of America’s youth, that our nation’s best days are ahead of us.
Jake Tapper of the ABC News blog, Political Punch, has also noted Senator McCain’s strong support elsewhere for community organization; ABC News’ Deputy Political Director Karen Travers pointed Tapper to this McCain quote:
“If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our armed forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.”
As our family endorses the SPLCenter, I am delighted to learn that the Senator so strongly supports the value of community organization and involvement – community organizers emerge primarily because government services do not always address effectively the needs of particular facets of the community.
So I applaud Senator McCain’s call to young people to become active in their community. His words of inspiration and record of support for community organizers is admirable and I am pleased that he has chosen to emphasize this fact in Teaching Tolerance, a publication directed toward young people.
Who knows? One of these future community organizers might grow up to become President.