Tell Your Story

What do you think? How did the Republicans make you feel when you heard those speeches? Share your thoughts and your experiences as a community organizer or working with community groups. Don’t let Republicans demean community service!

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Responses

  1. Does ANYONE in the GOP party realize what a community organizer does? they look out for the poor and middle class that this election should be about. Without community organizers people who have lost their jobs would have no hope, no electricity, no way of getting the help to find alternative living when they lose their homes, no one to help guide them when they believe all is lost in their community, and most of all nobody to encourage them that things will and can be better because they matter regardless of race, gender, or age. Last night was a perfect example of how the Republicans don’t care about those less fortunate and the display was shameful.

  2. Carol – We’re such softies, aren’t we? Because you’re so right. We actually want to help people who are down and out. Even reading the way you described it made my eyes well up…No kidding. So thanks for adding your comment. Because I’m just stunned. STUNNED…that a major party would be so insulting to such a noble cause. How could one ever be proud to be aligned with the Republicans from this point forward?

  3. I work at a little non-profit that does big things in MN. Today, my co-workers and I were seeing red over the comments made last night. We also realized that there was an underlying message of “In America, anyone can make it to the White House, unless you have ‘community organizer’ on your resume.” PTA moms are apparently better qualified and more in touch with the people of this country than those of us on the ground. Thanks for the encouragement Rudy and Sarah!

  4. I’m glad you started this site, and glad to see others who were sickened and disgusted by the RNC speeches last night. I wanted to stop listening but knew I had to know what they were saying. Insulting, mocking, laughing at the opponent? That is unbelievably immature behavior! I hate to say this though, but what I’ve seen on mainstream news (Sarah really “hit one out of the park”) and online (people are scared of Barack Obama – i.e. the unknown change) I’m noticing that a lot of people prefer the familiar, negative politics.
    Regarding community organizing, I’ve done some of that, and also social work (social workers, by the way, are more underpaid & underappreciated than even teachers are) and what can be more American than being of service, working for and with, fellow humans? I hope this site can be utilized, not just for the election, but for those of us who are or were involved in some type of community service to support each other.
    I have a draft of a blog I started to write about the DNC and group behavior, and if it’s ok will post again when it’s up.

  5. I’m sickened by this whole speech, in fact by the whole event. I’m not surprised that they laughed at “community organizing”. This was a crowd of primarily white, well-educated, affluent men in suits. Quite honestly, I was shocked at the lack of diversity in the audience. They seemed to be rubbing our noses in their contempt for diversity. These are the people who have grown obscenely rich over the past 8 years. They can laugh at community organizing because they have so successfuly repressed it! (They use the same tactics in the way they have handled protests at this convention!) If they think community organizing is so insignificant, just wait till they see just how effectively Obama has been at organizing the community of voters!

  6. I think the Republican idea of community organizing requires the use of a B-1 bomber or cruise missle.

  7. When my kids were in school and I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home wife and mother, I worked as a volunteer for the PTA — first at the local school and commuity school district levels, and then at the regional and state levels.

    I am proud of our accomplishments during that time. I didn’t have the “power of the purse” that those in commerce and government had. I had to use persuasion, good sense and logic to motivate the people who worked with and for me to “do the right thing.”

    Together, we were responsible for helping to pass district budgets, part of a committee searching for a new superintendent, developing effective relationships with the local media, etc. (e.g. I produced a local weekly 5-minute radio show, “PTA wants you to know.”)

    When I spent 5 sessions at the state capital as a “lobbyist” (state Legislative Chair and Public Relations) for the state PTA, I travelled in the same environment as other representatives of “good-doing” organizations, as well as professional lobbying firms. And, with only the power of persuasion and the advantage of being on the side of “right” … was very effective in getting child-oriented legislation passed.

    I learned so much thru this “on the job training” that I was able to take with me into other areas of my life, especially after my “career” as wife and mother ended. I had also learned a lot about the legislative process and what it means to be in politics … the “art of the possible.”

    Others before me had taken the post-PTA route into politics at the state and local levels. I opted not to because I did not want to endure the “kleig-light” vulnerability of the public servant. I am still an activist.

  8. For what it’s worth, I was the person who coined the now ubiquitous phrase, “Jesus was a community organizer; Pontius Pilate was a governor.”

    I wrote it as a comment on a Washington Post blog, the morning of September 4th, after Sarah Palin gave her sarcastic performance as her introduction to the American electorate. I didn’t come up with the first half of the phrase (”Jesus was a community organizer”; that’s been out there. I was the one who attached the “Pontius Pilate was a governor” corollary to it. For some reason, that made the phrase stick. Now it’s all over the world. (Amazingly, someone is actually already selling T-shirts with the phrase!)

    I came up with it because I was deeply disturbed by how the Republicans, and Gov. Palin in particular, have picked on one aspect of Barack Obama’s many years of good work, which included great things of his own hard effort. And one of those things was working as a community organizer in Chicago not long after finishing his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 1983. As an Ivy League graduate, he could have done many things — many well-paying things — but instead he took a low-paying job with Developing Communities Project, a church-based community organization supported by several Catholic parishes in Chicago’s impoverished South Side.

    Maybe some of you are familiar with such organizations?

    As an atheist myself, I must say that I’ve always been very impressed with the work of the Catholic volunteers on behalf of the poor. In my mind — that of an “atheist Christian” if you will — it’s the most noble thing about Catholics, and I commend them for it.

    So when Sarah Palin and Rudy Guiliani (who was a Catholic several marriages ago) mocked Barack Obama — and no mistaking it, they were mocking him and his vocation — they were in effect mocking community organizers and Catholic workers everywhere. And I didn’t like that. So I came up with the snappy little couplet and posted it.

    It seems to have hit a nerve, both good and bad.

    I like that it feeds into the outrage that people of all political and religious persuasions feel about the mocking tone in general of the post-Eisenhower Republican Party, and the mocking in particular of a very selfless act by a young man with many more lucrative options.

    But what I now worry about is that, the Party of Snark, will attribute it to Barak Obama or his campaign. (I’ve already seen such mention.) And, that it will create a backlash in which, somehow, Barack Obama is comparing himself to Jesus.

    No, he was acting in the manner of Jesus’ teaching: to help the poor, empower the disenfranchised. Even as an atheist, I get that. (I have been a volunteer for many years, and find that to be the most rewarding part of my life.)

    What Republicans won’t recognize, I’m afraid, is my actual point in penning that phrase: that Pontius Pilate was a governor.

    I’m not saying that Sarah Palin is a Pontius Pilate, or that if Jesus were to walk before her she would not mistake him for a target of belittlement. No, what I am saying is that the job does not make the person; the person makes the job, whether community organizer, mayor of a small town, sportscaster, civil rights lawyer, energy commissioner, senator, or governor.

    I’ve been following Barack Obama since his 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention. I read his incredible masterpiece, “Dreams from My Father,” which he wrote at the age of 34, before entering politics. (For all you community organizers out there, it is a must read!) And in getting to know him through these four years, I have been convinced without question that regardless of what particular jobs Barack Obama has held, I’ve never witnessed a more mature, level-headed, truly “Christian” person on the national scene. As an atheist, I would love to have a true Christian in the White House. (Jimmy Carter inspired me in my teen years, even when I was, as teenagers will be, militant in my atheism.)

    By contrast, in the single short week that Sarah Palin has been on the national scene, I have been only deeply sickened by her un-Christian ways — that of, as she put it, “a pit bull with lipstick.”

    I don’t know if Pontius Pilate wore lipstick, but I do know that Jesus organized communities.

    I hope that this at least clears up any mystery of motivation behind the phrase.

    Peace.

    Terry Carroll
    Oakland, California
    terry@terryspictures.com

  9. Shame on the Republican speech writers. I’ve done that kind of work — getting improved libraries in a rural county in Wisconsin; joining with the nurses union here in Santa Fe to get real reform in the treatment of nurses in our only hospital; building a coalition of churches to act together to help our Latino community organize for change in the Motor Vehicle Department’s procedures. All of these worked, though I don’t take the credit. We got the community moving!

  10. http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/rooanne

    I’m not used to shamelessly promoting my writing – but what the heck. Here’s a blog I wrote on the movement…. OUR movement, which happens to center around Barack Obama’s campaign. I am thinking this is one way of explaining why so many of us community organizer types (humanitarians) are drawn to the campaign.

  11. The North Shore of Lake Tahoe is a very special place and I am a very lucky person to live and work here, since 1977, in fact.

    I serve on local Boards of NGO’s, the backbone of our community. I serve as a consultant on programs that ask community members what they want to see for our future.

    After a 10 year process that was open, transparent, informed, interactive and inclusive, our community made a difference. With the help of our local jurisdiction and a tremendous community outreach effort, (we aren’t incorporated, so decisions are made by “deciders” who don’t live in our community) we will be narrowing the current four lane road configuration to three lanes with roundabouts.

    We will improve our community, our economy and our environment with wide sidewalks for families and businesses to enjoy, safer streets with slower traffic, and state of the art water treatment devices (KEEP TAHOE BLUE is our mantra) and turn around a community that has suffered ever since the road was widen 45 years ago!

    We organized, we mobilized and we were victorious!

  12. Theresa May: Great story. I love that you wrote that it was “a 10 year process.” We know that much community organizing is grinding work, and can take years to overcome some great obstacles!

    Rooanne: Please, shamelessly plug. That’s what we’re here for. I’m thinking that maybe this site can morph into some sort of clearinghouse for community organizers…after the election, after Obama wins, of course!

    Helen: Thanks for your post. The cynical out there (the Republicans?) don’t really believe Barack Obama when he says “It’s not about me, it’s about you.” Likewise, when you say you dont take the credit… Community organizers are like the fuel that gets the engine of the community moving. That’s something Republicans don’t appreciate. That’s “rabble-rousing.” (Just ask Michelle Malkin.)

  13. 2008 weblog award awarded to community-organizer.com in the category of “Best New Political Weblog”

  14. I work as a community organizer for a small, grassroots neighborhood organization in Central New York. Recently, while interviewing potential new hires, an applicant asked me why I had become an organizer.

    I realized that it must be something other than the obvious reasons of long hours, low pay and stress out the wazoo, of course. I was at a loss, never having really stopped to think about what being a community organizer meant. I have tried to explain to my friends and relatives what I do for a living, never achieving this feat in under 30 minutes.

    Most organizers care deeply about social justice. We are in this racket to change the world. However, all this passion and fire sometimes gets funneled into a fight for a corner stop sign. Not very exciting, you say? A good organizer will remember the whole campaign every time she stops at the sign. Canvassing the neighborhood, helping neighborhood leaders prepare
    their statements, the public meeting with a government official, the showdown if the official says no–maybe even a protest! That will be the best damn stop sign in the city.

    I used to commute to another job, driving through the neighborhood in which I now organize. There is a stop sign on a corner that I passed twice a day. What did I see from the safety of my locked car? Some of the worst drug dealing in the city, gang graffiti and lots of vacant houses. That’s usually all anyone learns about this neighborhood.

    As an organizer, I have been more fortunate than the commuters. I’ve had the opportunity to meet the people who live on these streets. Carolyn, a woman who raised four children while she was working full-time and who is now raising several more foster children while in retirement. George, who has lived in the same house for over 70 years. Jimmie, who volunteers at the local high school. These are just a few of the people I have met while working in this vibrant neighborhood.

    Even more importantly, I’ve been able to see neighborhood residents become neighborhood leaders, fighting to improve their streets and their community. It is hard work. Long meetings to discuss strategy and rehearse leaders’ roles. Public meetings designed to hold politicians, bankers and non-profit agencies accountable to the people. Protests at the homes and offices of those that refuse to work with us. More meetings to work out details when we finally win an agreement.

    The long hours have resulted in some mighty victories. We won a ten-year battle to force our city to reform its discriminatory property tax assessment system. We convinced the city to build a new Fire Station in our neighborhood, a place with the most fire calls in the city, despite a Mayor who declared a new station was “a luxury we can’t afford.”

    Our leaders putting pressure on City Hall has resulted in laws dealing with abandoned cars, drug houses and city business licenses for corner stores and bars.

    What about the neighborhood with the stop sign that once interrupted my commute? On the corner adjacent to the stop sign, our leaders convinced the city to build a playground and youth center on what was a vacant lot. I discovered after starting to work as an organizer that the stop sign exists because of a victory several years earlier. Our leaders brought the city’s district councilor out to the site, showed him the dangerous corner and won the stop sign.

    That same councilor is now our U.S. Congressman and he helped secure $2 million in federal funding to help families repair their homes. I guess that’s what being a community organizer is all about–not stopping at just the sign.

  15. organizer – Thanks for your story. I have a hard time understanding how anybody reading a story like yours could then continue to categorize community organizers as “rabble-rousers, thugs (!), pinko’s, lefties, etc.” Can ANY of the things you’ve achieved – or even strived to achieve – be considered not worth the effort? Perhaps only to a heartless Republican who thinks the free market will correct itself and a stop sign will magically appear or a Fire Station will get itself built where it’s needed. How wrong that Republican would be.

  16. looks like the GREAT BLACK ORGANIZER has a failed window plant. What say you now losers.


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