As we approach the election, a barrage of political advertisements and commentary showcase the current and future electoral leaders of our nation. Unfortunately, the reaction from the majority of the public seems to be one of profound disappointment and a collective shudder. Politics increasingly feels like a game, but one that is played outside the bounds of civility and with only short-term winners. And it feels like a game in which the real victory -- building a stronger nation -- has been lost. A polarizing media, the lowest common denominator appeal of negative advertising, a trivializing and superficial coverage of the issues, and a failure of political courage all contribute to a disillusioning electoral landscape.
And yet, at a grassroots level, our civic landscape has great vibrancy and there are reasons for both optimism and idealism. Across the nation, there are individuals, "super-empowered citizens", who are leading others and creating innovative change. Each day, Points of Light recognizes some of these outstanding grassroots leaders. Individuals such as Christopher Fought, who after leading a team of volunteers from Ligonier, IN, to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild in the wake of Katrina, was inspired to mobilize his own community. He founded Operation Foundation, a week-long clean and revitalization effort to restore Ligonier's downtown. With a budget of just under $8,000, Operation Foundation completed $250,000 worth of work in 2009. More than 600 volunteers, or 12 percent of the town's total population, showed up to help.
Individuals such as Renee Van Heel, who did not bow to despair when wildfires devastated her community in San Diego. Instead, she started "Fired Up Sisters," a group that has grown to include 600 women actively working to get fire victims back into their homes and help fire victims to become fire survivors.
These leaders are emblematic of the best spirit of America. We need to do more to highlight and lift them up and to follow their lead. So at a time of political bad sportsmanship and increasing cynicism, I want to encourage people to jump into a "game" that celebrates grassroots leaders and idealism and encourages positive action. Points of Light Institute is launching the Get HandsOn Tag Challenge, an innovative digital and social media initiative to inspire and engage an extraordinary number of Americans to bring positive change to their communities. Tag is, more simply put, the game you remember as a youth, but we've updated it for the 21st century and added a healthy dose of social consciousness.
With a powerful community-driven website, Tag invites you to create, or commit to, a service project, then "tag" your friends, family members and co-workers to come online and do the same. The site also lets you connect with other service-minded individuals, share stories of impact and see the ripple effect of positive change. And although service is a prize in and of itself, we have included some other great prizes to raise the stakes. But have no doubt, the underlying stakes of this game are high. Tag is a fun game with serious intent -- we are lifting up individuals who are changing the world, recognizing them by "tagging them" and encouraging those that are on the sidelines of change to join in the game.
Beyond the charged rhetoric and the inflammatory electoral accusations, millions of leaders in our communities are quietly tackling tough problems through direct service and creative civic action. They are gathering neighbors together to re-imagine parks, rallying around local schools to ensure better futures for our students, and helping equip families for financial self-sufficiency through financial counseling. They are joining hands across differences, political and otherwise, and acting to create practical and pragmatic solutions.
So... Tag, You're it! This is a game that will remind you about what really matters. And perhaps it will encourage you to remember that at its base, the game of elections is about creating positive change and ultimately uniting behind leaders. Leaders, who like all of us, are flawed, but have stepped into the arena with the hopes of creating a stronger nation. Join us at www.gethandson.com and let's unite around something we all can believe in -- the power of the individual to create change by serving, advocating, organizing, and voting.
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