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Defending Community Organizing

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In her Republican convention speech, Gov. Sarah Palin said:

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

If the candidates are going to start attacking each other personally, why can't they leave hard working community organizers out of it? It's ironic that as both parties are focused on change, community organizers --- the ones who actually patch the holes and our democracy and help Americans demand change --- are now a political football.

I have the privilege of working everyday with community organizers across the country who wake up everyday burdened by the very real responsibilities of the people in the communities around them for whom our economy and our government isn't working, and hasn't worked, for a very long time. This election, the ranks of poor people, communities of color, factory workers, single moms, elderly Americans, janitors is swelling to include the vast majority of Americans who now realize that our economy and our democracy just is designed to benefit an elite few rather than all of us. The change voters are talking about this year builds on the shared problems community organizers have been helping people identify for decades. The change voters want builds on the solutions community organizers have been nurturing and putting into place, building the leadership of everyday Americans all across our country to demand that America work for everyone.

I thought I'd share this statement, released today, by Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Center for Community Change, a 40-year-old national organization that builds the field of community organizing with hundreds of local organizations nationwide (and for which I work):

When Sarah Palin demeaned community organizing, she didn't attack another candidate. She attacked an American tradition --- one that has helped everyday Americans engage with the political process and make a difference in their lives and the lives of their neighbors.

All across the country, in every state and every community, there are community organizers helping people find shared solutions to the shared problems they face. The candidates for President and Vice President should be working to solve our shared problems, too, rather than attack others who trying to do the same.

From winning living wages to expanding affordable housing to improving the quality of public schools to getting health coverage for the poor and elderly, community organizers have made and will continue to make our communities and our country better for all of us.

The values that community organizers and grassroots leaders represent are not Washington values or Wall Street values but American values, that we care for each other and look out for each other and know we're all interconnected and have a valuable role to play in making our country work for all of us. Candidates should be courting these Community Values, not condemning them.

How's about instead of debating the relative merits of community organizing, the candidates take a cue from community organizers and start talking about the real problems Americans are facing and the real solutions we need.

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