Sarah Palin said.
Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin touted her credentials as mayor of an Alaskan town. "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities," she told the cheering crowd.
I've known lots of community organizers in every community I have ever lived. They included churches who help feed, clothe or house the poor (we have a food bank and a thrift store right here in Glen Rose) as well as organizations like Habitat for Humanity (which McCain cancelled an appearance with today-undoubtedly because he realized that the situation was rife with hypocrisy for him.) Now, I understand that Palin had to read that from the speech she was given, and I'll give her a pass that maybe she didn't realize what she was saying, since the teleprompter does go on so, but that it was even at all in a speech insults every good person that wants to help out in their community.
..here is what Giuliani and Palin didn't know: Obama was working for a group of churches that were concerned about their parishioners, many of whom had been laid off when the steel mills closed on the south side of Chicago. They hired Obama to help those stunned people recover and get the services they needed--job training, help with housing and so forth--from the local government. It was, dare I say it, the Lord's work--the sort of mission Jesus preached (as opposed to the war in Iraq, which Palin described as a "task from God.")
This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man's decision "to serve a cause greater than himself," in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate's favorite messages. Obama served the poor for three years, then went to law school. To describe this service--the first thing he did out of college, the sort of service every college-educated American should perform, in some form or other--as anything other than noble is cheap and tawdry and cynical in the extreme.
Some organizations set up their own community groups, but most work with existing institutions, often churches.
Baumann said their concerns might be as basic as getting rid of a drug house or having more police patrol their neighborhood. Organizers also help set up job-training programs, push for better parks and streets, and press for school improvements.
"I basically think of it as very conservative. People are concerned about their families and ... the vehicle for that is through organizing," Baumann said. "The importance of assisting people improve their own lives - it's quite a responsibility."
Dave Beckwith, executive director of the Needmor Fund in Toledo, Ohio, said it would be wrong to assume community organizers and the people they help are all liberals. They include both Democrats and Republicans and their work can involve clashing with politicians from both parties, he said.
"This is an election that I understand to be about the middle," Beckwith said. "People active in community life and who have aspirations for their communities - it seems to me that anyone would want to speak those people respectfully."
At a time when Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure, folks are trying to get by after layoffs, people are struggling with lack of healthcare, and we're facing pressing environmental issues, it's ludicrous to slam the little man and woman who isn't asking the government for handouts, but is doing what they can to make their neighborhood and city better.
I think of my parents. As a child growing up in the Clinton Park neighborhood in Houston, Texas, my parents were just regular folks trying to raise their five children (sounds like Gov. Sarah Palin). They were always present at our local elementary school (sounds like Gov. Sarah Palin) and were heavily involved in our church.
But our neighborhood was dying. Drugs were ravaging it. Older homeowners were dying and their children didn't want to live there, so they began renting to people who really didn't care. We saw abandoned homes, weeded lots, no sidewalks, a park falling into disrepair, and a senior citizen center shuttered.
So they joined several others neighbors and decided to form a civic club. Others called them crazy for trying to advance their ideas, but they didn't give up.
The Center for Community Change, an umbrella group of 300 grassroots organizations, called Palin's remarks insensitive.
"When Sarah Palin demeaned community organizing, she didn't attack another candidate," the group said in a written statement. "She attacked an American tradition - one that has helped everyday Americans engage with the political process and make a difference in their lives and the lives of their neighbors."
Ahmad Daniels, a longtime Charlotte, N.C., community organizer, said that trying to help communities that feel hopeless or helpless is "more difficult that running a big state like Alaska."
"To minimize Barack's work in the community is almost sacrilegious," he said. "She forgets the history of the United States - people touching hands, having a cup of coffee and talking about their visions
I'll tellyou what is ironic. McCain's speech tonight is supposedly about *service to country*. Well, so is what community organizers are doing. Both Democrats AND Republicans should be insulted by this slight.
P.S. I hadn't donated to Barack Obama's campaign after his vote for the telecom immunity. I was fired up today because I VALUE what Barack Obama represents and I donated. If you also think that communities are just as important as some guy that was a POW, donate, too!
P.P.S. Here's what Obama said. I completely agree. Thats why THESE are my values, not the ones the Republicans put out.
On the community organizer criticism: "They [Republicans] haven't talked about the fact that I was a civil rights lawyer; they haven't talked about the fact that I taught constitutional law; they haven't talked about my work in the state legislature, in the United States Senate," he said. "They're talking about the three years of work that I did right out of college as if that's-- I'm making the leap from two or three years out of college into the presidency."
Obama added though that his work as a community organizer was relevant to who he is and the kind of people he's "fighting for."
"Why would that kind of work be ridiculous?" Obama said. "Who are they fighting for? What are they advocating for? They think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency? I think maybe that's the problem -- that's part of why they're out of touch and they don't get it 'cause they haven't spent much time working on behalf of those folks."