Monday, January 16, 2006

Making the vision of Dr. King a reality

Today is the annual holiday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

All across America today is a day of speech-making and service. It’s a day when public leaders show their support for the vision and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thousand of people will spend time in acts of community service. These speeches will follow a formula of talking about accomplishments of Dr. King, problems we still face, and hope for the future. They will end with a challenge to do more.

The acts of service will be done in a day, with everyone back to their normal jobs tomorrow. I wonder what impact all this has on poverty or racism in America or the world?

I wonder how many will use maps, like those at to show where poverty is most concentrated in our cities, and to show where community based organizations are struggling to find resources to keep the hope alive and to meet the challenges?

I wonder how many will focus on blueprints, like those used to build tall buildings, to show all of the people and organizations who need to be available in the life of a child as he moves through each stage of schooling and into a future job and career? How many cities use Program Locators like the one the T/MC is hosting in Chicgo to connect volunteers and donors with charities in every neighborhood of a big city?

I’ve been writing “thank you letters” today, to people who made December donations to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections. In my letters I’ve said”

“I’m also passing along a thought for our friends to think about: After Thomas Edison invited the light bulb, he had to invent an industry to put light bulbs in every home. Imagine what it might have been like trying to think of every thing needed to make that happen, and not having much of a blueprint to follow.

As people make speeches today, I wonder how many are thinking like Edison, of all of the actions needed to end poverty and racism in America, or the world. For volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring to be part of the lives of more youth living in high poverty neighborhoods, and to stay engaged until each youth is starting a job/career, we need to be just as creative, and persistent as leaders like Edison and Dr King.

We need to build an industry that can provide the ideas, dollars, advertising, tech support and leadership needed by CBOs in every neighborhood in every big city. We need to make these resources continuously available for many years at Cabrini Connections, and thousands of similar programs in Chicago, in Detroit, New York and Los Angeles, and in every major cities around the world.

It’s a huge, but critically important challenge.

As you watch National Mentoring Month TV ads, or after you have attended dinners and community service events that honor heroes like Dr. King, I encourage you to think along with me about ways to make his vision a reality.

To me, the real legacy of people like Dr. King and Cesar Chavez, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus, is their example of sacrifice, perseverance, service, learning and innovation. They were not involved in random acts of kindness. They understood that to make a difference you must be willing to sacrifice. You must have the courage and commitment to persevere, even when you are walking alone. They understood that the big problems will take a long time to solve, and that there must be people willing to sacrifice their lives (literally and figuratively) if they were to make a quantum change in the condition of their fellow man.

Imagine what needs to happen to make comprehensive, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections available in every poverty neighborhood, not just in a few neighborhoods. What are the ‘tipping points”, or actions of a few that would have a benefit to hundreds of organizations doing similar work? Who are the people that you know who could become involved with the T/MC and this thinking and innovation process?

The Internet and new information technology tools, like mind mapping and concept mapping, make it possible for people to put their dreams on web sites, and to create visual maps that illustrate who needs to be involved, and how long they need to stay involved. The T/MC seeks partners who will incorporate these concepts into the essays shown in the Tutor/Mentor Institute , which illustrates the ideas and strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

I encourage you to share your ideas, and your vision, with a comment on this Blog, or in the Discussion Forum on the T/MC web site. Maybe next year, because of how we connect, and how we learn from each other, and from others, more of the leaders and service events will incorporate these concepts of continuous service, distribution of resources, and process improvement.

It's a new year. Anything is possible.

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

1 comment:

Trudging said...

The poverty is really shocking. Keep doing what you are doing, it is important!!