Volunteering in record numbers, young people became the superforce of the Obama campaign. Now many progressives hope that these youths’ campaign experiences will inspire a lifetime of community service. That’s why
magazine partnered to kick off
You Voted. Now What?
–a series highlighting some of our nation’s most inspiring young activists. We begin with an overview of the political landscape in which young people can continue their activism.
Be like Obama: become a community organizer. There are more than 600 youth-led community organizations working on creating green jobs, making college more affordable and organizing for immigrants’ rights, among many other issues.
, a database of youth activism, offers an easy way to search, by region, for campaigns under way. If you’re looking at community organizing as a career, there are fellowships that offer financial support at some of the most effective progressive organizations:
Center for Community Change
Young People For
Center for Progressive Leadership
Join the national service. In a campaign speech at the University of Colorado, Obama extolled the virtues of serving one’s nation and community. What would this service look like?
partners with nonprofit and faith-based organizations to work on issues ranging from public education to environmental cleanup. The
, established by John F. Kennedy, sends volunteers around the globe to work with governments, schools, nonprofits and entrepreneurs.
Teach for America
recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in schools in low-income communities. And
provides education, counseling and job skills to low-income young Americans.
Become a politician. At 27,
is the youngest member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. At 23,
was elected to serve on the Tallahassee City Commission. Payton and Gillum represent the growing number of young elected leaders who want to speak for underrepresented communities. Eighteen- to 35-year-olds represent more than 20 percent of the population but only 4.8 percent of all government seats nation- wide. Several programs hope to change that. The
Center for Progressive Leadership
recruits promising leaders from disempowered communities and connects them to organizations through paid internships and fellowships. The
Young Elected Officials Network
provides ongoing personal development and professional support for young elected officials. KRISTINA RIZGA
TIMES OF THE FUTURE:
On November 12 tens of thousands of New Yorkers were handed a free copy of the New York Times on their way to work. It looked and felt like the paper of record, but above a photo of military helicopters flying into the sunset a headline read, Iraq War Ends. By the end of the day it was revealed that this “special edition” of the Times was a prank coordinated by artist/activists
But to dismiss the paper as merely an amusing prank is to underestimate the seriousness of its purpose. The articles are frequently funny, but the politics are sincere. Nation Sets Its Sights on Building Sane Economy, reads one headline; All Public Universities to Be Free, reads another. Even the ads are hopeful:
extols “Peace. An idea the world can profit from,” and
sells ladybugs for pest control. This edition of the Times, as the motto states, contains “All the News We Hope to Print.”
“None of this is currently true,” Lambert says, “but it’s all possible.” Early on, the planners of the paper decided to eschew the familiar model of liberal lament about how bad things are. “The challenge isn’t to make people think that the war is a bad idea, since most people already do,” Bichlbaum explains. “The challenge is to make people feel it can be over now.” In order to provoke a visceral experience of political possibility, the artists and their collaborators created what might be described as an artifact of the potential future (the newspaper is dated July 4, 2009). Bichlbaum continues, “We wanted people to read this and say to themselves, What if?”
For forty years the dreams of conservatives have set the parameters of possibility in this country. Liberals, finally in power, need to exercise their atrophied imagination. The Times prank is exactly the sort of activist practice we need to rekindle our creativity and set up a new line of progressive thinking that begins with the question: What if? STEPHEN DUNCOMBE
HARPER’S DIRTY DEAL:
Canadian Prime Minister
didn’t skip a beat after
was elected president; on November 5 he proposed a joint US-Canada pact on climate change. “We need a partner in the matters of the environment if we want to make real progress,” Harper argued. His climate-change pact, however, has less to do with curbing global warming than with protecting Canada’s status as America’s leading oil supplier, specifically that massively profitable reservoir of “dirty oil” known as the Alberta tar sands.
America’s privileged access to Canadian oil is guaranteed under NAFTA’s “proportionality clause,” which obligates Canada to export two-thirds of its oil directly to the United States, almost all of which is extracted from the Alberta tar sands. The largest industrial project in history, the tar sands have drawn nearly $100 billion in investments from companies like
. An environmental nightmare, it uses vast amounts of water and energy and emits up to three times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than conventional oil extraction. Harper’s proposed pact would exempt Alberta’s “dirty oil” (as Obama’s senior energy adviser
has described it) from potentially tough new climate-change regulations implied by Obama’s promise to shift away from carbon-intensive fuels.
Obama also promised during the campaign to move the United States toward energy independence. Secure access to a North American energy supply like Alberta’s dirty oil would help achieve that goal. But in this case, energy independence and clean energy aren’t the same thing. So how will Obama respond to Harper’s proposal? Stay tuned… BRETT STORY