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Increasing civic participation as political participation shrinks

Two recent articles reinforce a special dimension of Share Our Strength and so many other nonprofits.  The first is an analysis of the November elections from the Center for Responsive Politics  @ arguing that: “The real story of the election’s campaign finance chapter was not which side had more resources, but that such a large chunk of the cost was paid for by a small group of ultra-wealthy donors using outside groups to bury voters with an avalanche of spending.”

            The second in the Washington Post this weekend is by retired General Stan McChrystal, who chairs the Franklin Project on whose board I sit. @ McChrystal calls for a system of national and community service that exceeds anything we’ve seen so far.  Turnout for the recent election was the lowest for a midterm in more than 70 years… We lack common experiences that bind us as a people. We have lost our confidence in doing big things as a nation…. We need to support leaders who ask more of us and not those who simply promise us more….Imagine if, during the next election season, candidates at all levels competed to propose serious ideas for the civic transformation of America.”

            One thing we do at Share Our Strength that may be even more important than feeding kids is creating opportunities for people to make a difference in their communities.  As political participation narrows, we make broader civic participation possible. Every Arby’s and Denny’s customer who makes a donation during our Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, every chef volunteer, Cooking Matters instructor, school breakfast petition signer, and donor large or small, demonstrates that Americans will engage in making America stronger when they believe their actions will lead to results.

That’s not a substitute for the necessary policy change that political participation can achieve. But it is a way of building back confidence that change is possible, that community can be created, and that the voices of organized citizens will be heard. It means every aspect of our sector’s work is a chance to also restore hope that making a difference makes a difference.  So let’s make every moment count.


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