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One day in a forgotten hallway in the House of Representatives . . .
Democrat: Are you getting a lot of heat from your constituents about Congress not doing its job?
Republican: Not really. Most of my email is fan mail. You?
Democrat: My inbox has mostly “Stay the course” messages too.
Republican: You worried?
Democrat: Nah. My re-election is air tight. You?
Republican: Not really. My party bosses tell me that our fund-raising is doing even better in 2013. Besides, what can the public really do?
Democrat: (laughs) They could impeach us for not doing our jobs!
Republican: (laughs) Like they’d ever work harder or smarter than we do to get that done!
Democrat: Tee off at the usual time?
Republican: Sure!
Furloughed janitor: (overhearing while getting personal tools from the closet) I KNEW I should have gotten my doctorate in law and gone into politics!
“The government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” Abraham Lincoln
We have forgotten that our government is OUR government. The officials that we elect are not aliens from another planet but neighbors (and so are the bureaucrats and other federal employees that carry out government services). It may be okay to vent our frustrations and to lampoon some of the silliness we see in Congress but it cannot stop there and we cannot wait for people overwhelmed by a broken system to make all the necessary repairs themselves.
We’ve asked Washington to fix problems that cannot be fully addressed without the active support of ALL citizens. Then we blame Washington for the inevitable failures.
Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare; are not  these  largely the products of a society that wants someone else to do the hard work of supporting and serving those in need of more help than an individual or family can provide?  Don’t states, counties, local communities and all citizens have to be part of the effort?
Is it not entirely possible to be compassionate AND just, inclusive AND discriminating (in the healthiest sense of those terms), to honor the ingenuity and hard work of business AND labor?  Do we have to buy the either/or framing of the issues we care about most?  Can’t we balance the budget AND be fair

Sure, comprehensive win-win solutions take longer to discover and implement. They require more of us than we can comfortably give. Being part of the solutions will require sacrificing some of our delusions, assumptions and comfortable naiveté.  But we are wired for servant-leadership! We loudly cheer those who give 100% and accomplish something of significance. Our own hearts beat faster when a worthy goal is finally within our reach. We rest more comfortably when, at the end of the day, we know that we have given our best to some effort that verifiably benefits at least one other person.
I don’t have a road map to the place beyond Congressional deadlock but I am confident that the direction is towards more shared responsibility, more public ownership of our national future.

The next steps are clear too:

  • For whom does my heart break? What part of the society seems to me to need the most help and thinking about them and their need wakens a restlessness in me that won’t quit? (Is it older disabled veterans? Children in the inner city who cannot read or write? Young adults in rural communities that cannot find decent employment? Etc.)
  • What can I do? (I can’t do everything and what I can do may be a very small step toward a sustainable solution.)
  • What else can I do? (keep answering this question until you run out of ideas)
  • Which one of all these ideas will I commit to doing today? What specific action (large or small) will I take today?
  • Who else needs to know about my plan of action? (Success is helped by a healthy accountability – knowing that someone you respect will expect you to follow through on your good intentions.)
  • Whose help will I need to take this step?
  • What resources beyond what I already have could be used to help me succeed in this action?
  • Who can help me to find those resources?

The step that I took today was to spend three hours drafting, editing, and publishing this article.  If you found any of this helpful, please share it. Perhaps together we can promote more citizen involvelment and better government.

What step will YOU take today?

I encourage comments.  There is also a one-question poll to see how those who read this article respond to the current Congressional crisis.

Why the Best Forms of Democracy Might Be More Local

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Why Mayors Should Rule the World (Name of a TED talk – click here to see)

During a recent conversation with a Gen X’er I heard the familiar complaints about “that” political party and “those people” and how the government is wasteful and enabling of slackers, etc. What I never heard was a single word about what he intended to do to make it better.

To be fair, it would be difficult to do. Members of Congress each represent 500,000 constituents and Senators serve millions in most of their states. How does one make their voice count?

My truth is that most effective political action is local. We live in a certain community, know many of the leaders – some by first names. Hopefully we enjoy good reputations and access to city and county officials is fairly easy and inexpensive. One does not have to be a corporate lobbyist to get a hearing from a city council member or alderman – particularly to address a local concern or to share an idea to improve local life.

Instead of focusing so much energy and verbiage on what Washington cannot do, how about more of us consider what we can do locally. If 50% of every local community were to be positively engaged in helping their cities and towns to work for all of its citizens, the ripple effects would be unimaginably transformative of our national “can’t or won’t do” depression.

What’s your thought?

Improving Physical Environment in Homes Can Improve Health

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Communities have many options when it comes to improving the health of its most health-challenged folk. Here is one that I found to be particularly hopeful.


Our Failing Schools

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Well, that’s not entirely true in this community. Master educator Geoffrey Canada describes the problem that plagues most schools; a business plan that has not worked but is repeated annually.

What’s changing here in Cameron? Great teachers who are being encouraged to innovate and supported as they do that, working with students as whole persons, and citizens who see the potential and want to be part of new ways to support children.

The Elders

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Introduction to the Elders

Click above to view this short video clip of a group of people whose distinguished service around the world has earned them the name “elders.”

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of challenges facing nearly every community. Solutions don’t come easily. Many of us have met or at least heard of one or more of these remarkable world-class leaders. (I recall filling sand bags with Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the 1993 flood in St. Louis. Not a photo op for him; the man worked as hard as any of us and smiled the whole time.)

One of their most compelling lessons for us is their persistence over time. They do not give up. Their commitment to the well being of all people only grows with time.

It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to master just about anything. Most of us will live over 630,000 hours. If we started today giving just 10 hours a week to doing something we like to that can help at least one group of neighbors, within 22 years we could all be “elders” in our communities – capable of serving and leading effectively.

Not sure you have the time? According to a 2012 Nielsen report, The average American over the age of 2 spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, says a new Nielsen report — plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.

Time Americans Spend Watching TV Each Week

There are three kinds of people in the world:  Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, those who wonder what’s happening.  Choose one.

California may provide insight into the future direction of government

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Does California have something worth examining to get a glimpse at the future of government?  One editorial says, “Yes!”

California Gold

What do you think? 

Thanks to You!

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Thank you Cameron voters! 553 residents cast votes in the April election for city city council and school board.

While 553 might seem like a lot, this represents about 14% of the number of residents eligible to vote (approximately 3.900 if using 2010 census figures and 1.5 voters per household.

What would it take to flip that number around, to get 41% of Cameron voters to the polls for the next election?

What are your suggestions?

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