Infrastructure for civil service

I have drunk the Koolaid.

I’m so excited to see the change.gov site. Mandatory civil service, I expected. But this goes way beyond what I hoped. This could mean real participation in government. Activism – real activism but built into our government – mobilization of people who have the most time and energy, not through churches and charities but through an organized infrastructure for nationwide civil service.

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

People will put in work they can be proud of. Rather than accepting help shamefully from “charity” everyone can be part of building communities and services. I think of the short but intense time I spent helping with Katrina relief in the Astrodome in Houston. And the moments when authority decreed and doled out, and the depression that caused, vs. the moments when people had the tools at hand, the resources, to organize themselves.
These volunteer corps will build structures where that work is respected, where it will lead to experience and self confidence and paying jobs for people.

I’m heartened by the Obama administration’s apparent respect for people with disabilities, teenagers, and senior citizens.
Look at this. It gives me chills. I keep looking at it and crying with happiness. I believe it. Agenda: Plan to Empower Americans With Disabilities.

First, provide Americans with disabilities with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.

Second, end discrimination and promote equal opportunity.

Third, increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities.

And fourth, support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities

YES!!! Someone GETS IT.

Thank you.

I think of all the fantastic people I know online who are living with disabilities and who contribute so much to society with all their intense, hard work. Work that is not recognized as such. They don’t need charity or a hand out they need decent health care and for their talents, knowledge, and work to be respected. This administration really could lay out paths for that to happen.

Look at the goodness of the change.gov site. It’s savvy, it’s well built, it was poised for launch. The organization of the Obama campaign convinced me deeply of this coming administration’s competence &efficiency, & their ability to use technology with good common sense. That convinces me too.

Take the things that are GOOD about the military, the Army, and make a decent U.S. Civil Service Corps where service is respected, turn all that to the power to build rather than destroy. Making things better isn’t the job of corrupt profit-based corporations or punitive institutions, or the prison-industrial complex, or religious-based “charity models” — building and maintaining our country is the job of government, which is – or will be – everyone’s job.

election night!

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8 Responses to Infrastructure for civil service

  1. Prentiss Riddle says:

    Boy, I am torn about this, both change.gov and civil service.

    Regarding change.gov, it looks like a great step forward on two fronts. One is that Obama clearly gets the concept of transparent government and like you I’m astounded that he was able to get this site in place so fast. The other is the hope of turning the energy from the campaign into an ongoing movement for social change (or, failing that, at least a movement in support of Obama’s legislative agenda).

    However, isn’t there the possibility that these two fronts are in conflict? If change.gov or something like it becomes a vast propaganda arm of the executive branch, the result might be wonderful in the short term and deadly in the long term. If some future Republican president used government funds to lobby (say) against abortion rights, I would be mightily pissed. The presidency is already a bully pulpit; should it command a bully social network as well? Is this a job for .gov or for .org?

    Regarding civil service, the idea of giving millions of citizens an opportunity to participate in our country’s goals rather than passively observing their tax dollars at work is inspiring.

    But: I’m trying to think of one top-down institution that has ever made effective use of my time. To the extent that service is actually voluntary and participants have real choice in how they serve, I’m a believer. But if my crappy right-wing Oklahoma high school had forced me to put in 50 hours of “volunteer” service on some project of their choosing, I’d have called them fascists, and I’d have been right.

    Like everything else in the Obama administration, it all depends on how the vision is turned into practice. At a minimum, that’s something change.gov will be good for: it captures the vision in one place so we can hold the new regime accountable.

  2. Mark Pritchard says:

    Did you notice that the hiring policy on change.gov includes non-discrimination against transgender people? There was a thing on NPR trumpeting it.

  3. rbeth121@yahoo.com says:

    I, too, have been watching the site, anxious to hear Obama’s plans for mobilizing the country, tapping into the talents of so many who, I believe, are ready to act, doing work we’re proud of, and invested in. And, most importantly, I’d love to see our nation encouraging young people to know that they, too, can make contributions that are valued and important.

    My interests are related to developing programs for individuals with disabilities, particularly supporting schools to focus on skills that will encourage kids to pursue employment options so they can look forward to independent adulthood. Years ago I thought these programs were coming along, but they seem to be the first to go when funding is cut.

    http://www.dol.state.ga.us/vr_services.htm#people

  4. Ognjen says:

    Although I am not an American and did not vote I followed the election since about March this year and was an Obama supporter. Although I had an outside view of what was going on he seemed the better choice for USA and for the rest of the world. McCain just did not float my boat.

    On that note, what I am afraid now is the fact that Obama is expected to do so much and he has so little time. Considering the world crisis 4 years is not a long time. What I mean is, although change.gov and posting weekly announcements on YouTube is great and unprecedented I fear that he will not be able to cope with the crisis and will not deliver. Following that there will again be a “Ow I did not vote for him” period.

    However, if he does deliver – he is surrounding himself with some really experienced people – this might be the greatest part of modern history.

  5. Nichole says:

    The thing that really won my vote for Obama was seeing how he was able to inspire people to act. I voted for him with the hope that he’d keep inspiring people after the election — to get out and actually do something helpful in their communities. There’s a lot at change.gov that keeps me hopeful on that front.

  6. Matt says:

    I agree. The fact that the site was ready to go a day or two after the election is in itself no mean feat. It belays a level of organization that we as a nation have never seen.

    More importantly though is the message on the site. You are correct, Obama will call on individual citizens to act for the first time since Kennedy. It’s an exciting time; I just hope that the new Administration will be able to follow through on these wonderful first steps.

  7. Matt says:

    As a follow up to my other post, I hope that Americans still know how to serve
    their fellow man. I can just imagine some tweener seeing serving the
    greater good by forwarding an email or buying a themed xBox game. I can
    just see it now, “Live Aid” the game, a guitar hero style adventure that
    virtually feeds the poor.

    Let’s just hope that my healthy sense of pessimism is not well founded.

  8. Samantha P says:

    that is one thing i love about Obama, he cares about young people and their education and development, he realizes that the children truly are the future. And that he is trying to mobilize people of all ages, that is so important with young people, in the past years there has been a rise in apathy towards getting involved in young people. And i think that the election really started sparking interest in young people again, wanting to get involved in rallys and protests, especially the youth of California and the infamous Prop 8. Prop 8 sparked activism in almost everyone that i know!

    I think that the fact that he wants to expand volunteer groups is great, and when that happens we will be seeing a lot of young people willing and wanting to help.

    and i would “Share the Magic by giving one of the laptops to my mother. She REALLY could use a new computer to help her keep track of her bills and such. Besides she REALLY needs to get up to date with technology, she can barely check her email without me helping her, hahaha!

    here’s a link to my deviantart profile!

    http://samanthapayntr.deviantart.com/

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