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Craig Newmark Headshot

Rediscovering the American Dream

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Throughout the world, people view America as the place to find a better life, still feeling that we are "the shining city on the hill."

People aspire to be part of our vital and large middle class. That was true of my family two generations ago and is still true for much of the world. You work hard, you play by the rules, you move ahead. It works.

Sure, in past years politicians and tax policy have been fairly successful transferring wealth from the middle class to a small upper class. That's the point of tax breaks for the rich. However, I see a lot of vitality in the American middle class.

If you want a good look, read the first four parts of Third World America, by Arianna Huffington. It's not pretty, but we see the results every day in unemployment statistics. A few politicians, over eight years, created an economic Pearl Harbor.

After getting your attention, Third World America talks about restoring the American Dream. We have a problem, but we're not in free-fall. We admit we have a problem, and as Americans, we're pretty good at getting stuff done.

Well, this means that each and every one of us needs to be a kind of new patriot, first facing the problem, then linking up with each other, from the grass roots up. The big danger is that such efforts often get co-opted by the people who created the problem, that's already happened.

America's response to Pearl Harbor reminds us that Americans can do anything, and we can rise above the current situation and come out ahead.

The last part of Third World America talks about that -- where when we work together, we really can change things, if we each engage in this new patriotism.

The new patriotism means that each of us, if we have the resources, needs to give the other person a break, in a way that connects with others who can help out.

Maybe the best example of that are the women and men of the armed forces, which I take personally; if someone's going overseas to risk a bullet for me, I'll do what I can to help out. That means supporting the people who support veterans, particularly wounded warriors. It means doing so as part of multiple teams, including Veterans Affairs, the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, and a bunch of other groups, with more to come.

The deal there is traditional American teamwork, where we become part of something bigger than ourselves, where service to others becomes part of our normal expectation of each other. That's what happened on Pearl Harbor Day.

There're a lot of ways to do this, including the everyday volunteerism of AllForGood.org. Education is a vital part of the American Dream, and I recommend DonorsChoose.org as a small, practical way to help teachers help their kids. Okay, there are lot of such groups, these are just a few of the roughly one hundred I help out.

Specifically, I bear witness to the good efforts of others who do the real work. (While I provide other significant assistance, they all tell me what they really need is someone to stand up for them.)

Here's something new: jobs for veterans are desperately needed, and conventional online job boards don't seem to get it done. Maybe we need a way to mark possible jobs as vet-friendly, and to mark resumes as from recent vets. For sure, we need help from professional recruiters and job placement organizations to translate the way military skills are articulated into private sector terms. Attempts to translate formal job categories, well, I feel that needs a human touch every time. (Yes, that's a tangent, indulge me.)

While I'm at this, here's the biggest job skill vets have that never gets discussed. Vets, particularly combat vets, are really good at 1) assessing the situation fast, 2) making a decision, and 3) getting stuff done. That's maybe the most critical skill of all, private or public sector. Hey, maybe that's what "leadership" is. (Okay, another tangent.)

In any case, revitalizing the middle class involves mutual support for each other, we need to stand up for each other. The attitude is that "I got your back" for everyone.

I sure don't know how to do that, but ... I feel that social media is key. It's half baked for now, but I plan to use some social media tool to bear witness for every good effort I work with. The plan is to have those folks do the same, in a spreading grassroots network of networks. You're going to hear from me.

Me, I've signed up for twenty years of this, a kind of voyage, to go boldly where no nerd has gone before.