Monday, September 8, 2008

No shame in community organizing  

During Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention, I sat with my mouth hanging open and my fists clenched while Palin uttered these tasteless words:

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."

She was blatantly attacking Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer. The crowd was well aware of her intentions, as they immediately erupted into a chorus of cheers for Palin, and boos for Obama.

This wasn't the first time a Republican attacked Obama's years as a community organizer. During Rudy Giuliani's speech, he joked: "He worked as a community organizer... what?!"

The overall tone of the Republicans is that being a community organizer is a shameful thing, that community organizers don't do important work, and that Obama's experience as a community organizer is not relevant to his campaign for presidency.

Today, bloggers are banding together to post about the childish comments of the Republicans, and to say that being a community organizer is NOT bad thing. Despite what his opponents say, Barack Obama did do important work during his three years as a community organizer. Freshly graduated from Columbia University, 24 year-old Obama took a job working for Chicago's far South Side at a whopping $13,000 a year.

His responsibilities? According to Obama, he "worked with churches, who were dealing with steel plants that had closed in their neighborhoods, to set up job training programs for the unemployed and after-school programs for youth, and to try to deal with asbestos in homes with poor people -- community service work -- which John McCain has been talking about, putting country first and extolling the virtues of national service."

Doesn't sound bad to me.

Community organizers work as catalysts to jump-start progress in communities that need it the most. They bridge gaps between people, solve conflicts, and form relationships. According to

Interviews with people who worked with him during that time elicited few complaints--virtually everyone described him in glowing terms, including dedicated, hard-working, dependable, intelligent, inspiring, a good listener, confident but self-effacing. They expressed admiration for him as an organizer who trained strong community leaders while keeping himself in the background and as a strategist who could turn general problems into specific, winnable issues.

And so I ask the Republicans: where is the shame in being a community organizer? How does Obama's years of helping people find jobs and keeping kids off drugs warrant those nasty comments that your party has become so accustomed to making? Before being so quick to judge, I would suggest the candidates take a few minutes to research all the positive things that Barack Obama actually did as a community organizer, because I'm sure none of them even bothered to do so.

Being a community organizer is a good thing.

What next?

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2 comments: to “ No shame in community organizing

  • September 8, 2008 at 6:24 PM  

    I guess we can tell by the tone of the various speeches who really values the people that they are supposed to be serving...

    I think the organizers of today's blogging effort should be applauded for getting the word out about this Blogging Day For Justice! I am honored to join the ranks of other Community workers to let our voice be heard! I am proud to be a Community Worker and Community Organizer!

  • September 8, 2008 at 7:04 PM  

    Well, as far as I've seen, the entire RNC has been a bunch of "Nyah nyah nyah! I'm better than you, cootie! nyaaaaah! *poke*". They haven't discussed any information relevant to the election. All it's been is a anti-democratic version of "your mama" and a God-o-thon.