Wellstone Action! responds to Palin's bust on community organizing
Elana Wolowitz of Wellstone Action, a leadership training center founded in honor of Paul and Sheila, responds to the community organizing busts made by RNC elites. While Palin's speechwriters are getting pretty good reviews from the cable news makers emanating sound bites all around Xcel, they made a big mistake: don't wake the sleeping Wellstone. (full text after the jump)
...Last night here in our great hometown of St. Paul, Republicans gathered for their turn to make their case to voters. And Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, along with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, openly mocked and derided the job of community organizing.
Comparing her experience to that of Obama's, Palin said "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer - except that you have actual responsibilities".
Now, let me be clear: my interest here is not to defend Barack Obama's experience, but the professional field to which Wellstone Action trains people to devote their lives.
So let me outline, for anyone who may be curious, the responsibilities of a community organizer:
Wake up, knowing that the day ahead of you will require you to work long hours, for little pay, less thanks, and zero credit.
Sit down at your desk, or pick up your cell phone, and figure out the people in the community you need to talk to to identify the challenges being faced. Set up meetings with leaders and regular people to get buy-in on the proposed solution.
Make decisions about how best to proceed with your plan for change in your community. Figure out how you will influence powerful interests without any resources other than your own scrappy resourcefulness and the support of many individuals earned by painstakingly building relationships.
Figure out who in your community wields power and influence, who doesn't, and why. Make hundreds of calls, knock on hundreds of doors, and listen to hundreds of stories in order to bring people together in common cause. Convince folks to set aside what makes them different and focus on their shared interest - it's the only way to build common ground and affect change.
Learn from those around you and prepare for the next day. Write follow-up notes, make confirmation calls, and thank your volunteers. Remind yourself to be tenacious, because the process of change is long and can be slow in coming.
Being an organizer means putting the needs of the community above yourself and your ego. Your task is to influence the powerful with little more than the common will, and do so while developing the leadership of those around you. A good organizer is always working to put themselves out of a job, because many others should be prepared to step up and take their place. You listen and learn, coordinate and plan, arrive early and stay late, and do the real work that improves people's lives.
It's easy to laugh at something unfamiliar, or mock something you don't understand. But community organizers have been the ones that moved our country forward during times of crisis and great change. They are ordinary people working to improve their communities - that doesn't sound very elitist, does it?