Last week we successfully launched our Reclaiming Main Street Campaign, starting in Washington, D.C. I'm embarking on this effort because I believe we must remind ourselves – and reclaim the practical idea – that community is a common enterprise. We must get past the dysfunction in today’s politics and public life and create a new path forward. I believe that each of us can help shape this new, constructive direction. On the day of the kick-off, I was asked the same question – first on Wisconsin Public Radio, then again just after my speech, and in various other conversations: What do we hope to accomplish?
Here’s my response: Too much of our community and public life is about what people are against. Consider Exhibit A - the recent federal government shutdown. Then there’s the ongoing ObamaCare drama, the nasty Virginia gubernatorial election and countless other situations both in our nation's capital and in our communities. Progress is hard to come by nowadays. Division and acrimony have become a way of life.
The Reclaiming Main Street Campaign is about what people are for. Through the campaign, we seek to:
- Remind ourselves that community is a common enterprise. None of us can go it alone, on our own.
- Provide practical steps – including hands-on tools that people and organizations can use in their communities – to articulate our shared aspirations, do shared work, and tell a new story about our ability to come together and get things done.
- Invite people to come together with a growing number of individuals across the country who are joining our Public Innovators Corps – people who want to help produce positive change in their daily lives in their communities.
The challenges in the country are big and daunting. I have no illusions about that. But we must act. What, I ask, is the alternative? I refuse simply to sit back, accept that change is not possible, and write off a key lesson of American history: Change often starts small and grows.
For this reason, the Reclaiming Main Street Campaign is a long-term initiative – it will extend well beyond 2014. Each month, we'll travel to new communities (next stop: Oakland, Calif.) to engage people in thinking and talking about how they can make community a common enterprise. We'll pursue an aggressive press and social media effort to amplify these messages and engage more people. And we'll offer practical tools people can use to make a difference where they live and in their daily lives.
This campaign is about people like you and me, who yearn to take a different path in our communities and nation. Together, we can make a difference. Join me in this effort – and send me your thoughts and ideas in a personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to hear from you.