Tuesday, February 03, 2009

You don't learn to walk by taking only one step

"Do not be discouraged if your plans do not succeed the first time. No one learns to walk by taking only one step." ~ Catherine Pulsifer

Between my radio show, this blog and emails, I hear from so many people who want to do something - anything - to impact the decisions being made by our elected officials. Often, however, they've made their phone calls, written their emails and letters ... and see no difference in the votes or ideas. They then get discouraged and think about the effort they expended without seeing any results.

Subsequently, they begin to think that their individual effort doesn't really make a difference. So they go back to the daily worries that affect all of us and focus on things like their families and their jobs - because at least there they can see they have influence.

For several years now, I've seen 'pockets of change' throughout this area. Groups of people joining others in an effort to accomplish a specific task. With the Take Back Toledo group, I see business leaders taking on an expanded role. The We Demand a Vote - Toledo coalition fighting the red light cameras is sending what many organizers hope will be a 'first' message to elected officials about listening to their constituents.

This is encouraging, but does not guarantee success. And that's part of the on-going problem we have in this area.

We've seen individuals engage in such efforts in the past and, when they have not achieved the desired results, it spreads discouragement throughout the community.

The 'failure' (though I wouldn't characterize it as such) is touted by those who'd like to maintain control as further evidence that 'the people' really don't want a change from the failed policies we continue to follow ... or the bad decisions being made by the same old politicians ... or the ability to vote on decisions rather than have them dictated to us.

Opponents of the unsuccessful efforts use the 'failure' as justification for continuing their own actions and as an example for why future efforts should never be tried.

Our mayor is constantly chiding people like me who point out our problems and offer alternatives to address them. He calls me 'negative' because I'm not constantly telling you how great things are - like he does. (That he never addresses the facts, but merely mounts a personal attack is a post for another day...)

I'm not negative, but I am realistic. I was raised to confront problems and address them, because ignoring them doesn't make them go away. In fact, ignoring them, more often than not, compounds the problem, making any solution much more difficult (as our council and mayor are discovering with another $8 million in budget deficits to address for 2008).

While I love my city, I love the people in it more. I believe in the power of the individual to affect change. I believe that Toledoans, when giving the information, will make good decisions. I believe that people want a cost-effective government. I don't believe that wanting efficiency in government has anything to do with being a Republican or Democrat. Democrats don't want wasteful spending any more than Republicans do ... and pointing out that wasting spending is occurring is NOT being negative, unless you're the one doing the wasting and you don't like the fact being pointed out.

Because I believe these things, I encourage people to become involved. I am not under the delusion that a single phone call to an elected official will change things, but a single phone call from a a few hundred Toledoans will.

Andrew Carnegie said:

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

Buchholz and Roth said:

"Synergism is the simultaneous actions of separate entities which together have greater total effect than the sum of their individual effects."

So the challenge is to find other like-minded individuals and encourage them to get involved as well. That means you talk to your family and friends, neighbors and co-workers. You share with them the telephone numbers and emails of elected officials and urge them to call or write. You invite them to come with you to town hall and public meetings to confront the elected officials on the issues. You help them register to vote and follow up by offering a ride to polls.

And when the elected officials ignore your instructions to them (they work for you, not the other way around), you fire them and hire someone who will bring about the changes you want to see.

You will not see success right away, but you will begin to see 'pockets of change' and those little pockets will grow together and soon there will be a major success. Along the way, the little accomplishments and then the major ones, will 'prove' to doubters, and those who've become discouraged, that the individual efforts can have positive outcomes.

And pretty soon, we'll all be walking.

1 comment:

Tim Higgins said...


I would love to say something clever here, but Thomas Jefferson put it far better than I could ever hope to,

"Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them."

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