Archive for June, 2013

Be a Citizen

June 21, 2013 3 comments

PSA: Be a Citizen 

Photo credit: Google Free Images

We Need to Engage and Inspire our Citizenry

Over the years, I have spent much of my time advocating and volunteering on behalf of our communities. As our society developed technologically, this became easier to do—especially to advocate on behalf of others in the form of petitions and getting the word out via social media. Unfortunately, it appears my viewpoint regarding the ease and the benefits of advocacy and volunteering in our communities does not appear to resonate with all of our citizenry. Even so, my contention remains that our citizens need to advocate more as opposed to less for our communities, and we need to engage and inspire others to advocate and volunteer for the good of our nation.

As a nation, we do volunteer. In fact, according to Volunteering in America, we reached our highest level of activism over a five-year span ending in 2011 with 64.3 million volunteers donating their time to help others. This is great news; however, as a nation we were volunteering even more prior to this time frame. In fact, one of our highest levels came to fruition just after the attacks on 9/11, but we saw a steady decline starting in 2005 as the economy began its downturn, and we have not recovered since then. Furthermore, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the volunteer rate declined .3 percentage points in 2012. Although many people do volunteer and advocate for worthy causes and issues, others appear to be apathetic or reluctant—resulting in a decline in volunteering. We need to change this outlook in order for us all to move forward in a positive world.

Unbelievably, there are those who are against the concept of volunteering as noted by ABC News in a segment called, “Are Volunteers Taking Jobs from Workers?” My first inkling of this sentiment occurred many years ago while volunteering with New York Cares on a painting project in a firehouse. In the ABC News segment, firefighters, school unions, and a service employees union made the argument that volunteer firefighters and local children who volunteered to clean up a local park took these jobs from workers. While the argument that volunteering can take jobs away may have some merit, there is an underlying issue to this argument, and additional advocacy as opposed to less volunteering should be the response.

Historically, advocates and volunteers have changed our communities for the better. Advocacy efforts brought forth the women’s vote, child labor laws, and anti-poverty measures. We need to keep up the momentum. We need to step up our efforts. We need to be true citizens. We have volunteer organizations, such as Volunteers of America, as well as activist speakers who are taking up the cause to inspire people to reach out, to advocate, and to volunteer. Dave Meslin, a TED speaker, speaks about overcoming the decline in volunteering with an “antidote to apathy.” Dave Eggers, a TED speaker with a dream to bring communities together to educate children, also notes systemic difficulties, but explains how we can overcome these issues and inspire each other in the process. In essence, it’s not difficult, and we need to do our part. We can help change people’s lives for the better, so please find an issue or a cause that’s important to you. If you’re interested in finding a cause to engage in, I invite you to review the Advocacy and Volunteering sections of this blog.

Lastly, there have been many calls to activist citizenship by many of our leaders, including former presidents; however, for the sake of brevity, I will choose only one quote for this post. John F. Kennedy, in a call to action, stated, “I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.” It is my hope that we will listen to all of our leaders, learn to work together, and fight for the common good of our nation and our world. Together, we can lead. Together, we can fight. Together, we can be the United States of advocates and volunteers.

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” -Marjorie Moore, Habitat for Humanity Volunteer