January 6 might go down in history as a date to remember like September 11. Watching a band of people storm the Capitol Building while almost all of our elected representatives were working inside was appalling. We saw how fragile our democracy has become. We saw how divided we are as a nation.
How far we have come from a day in May 1964 when I was a junior in college visiting the Capitol Building with my political science class. From the visitor’s gallery above the Senate, we saw a floor full of Senators gathering for debate and a vote on a motion leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among others, we saw Barry Goldwater, Ted Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Everett Dirksen, Eugene McCarthy. Absolutely no one would have thought to be afraid of a mob. Margaret Chase Smith was the only female Senator. There were no black Senators. No one was wearing a mask.
At lunchtime, a classmate and I were roaming the halls and saw the House Dining Room. Boldly, we asked the host if we could have lunch. “Sure, right this way” he said. Even then, it seemed surprising that the building was so open to the public. No one had even thought of security checks in this building let alone in airports. So much has changed.
We have watched recent events and asked ourselves “how did we get here?” and “what can we do?”. This feels like an extremely critical time in our history: will we rescue our democracy or see the fall and decline of the American dream?
What can we do to stop the decline? What are the root causes of the problems we face today? How do we work in our own communities to restore trust in government and institutions? How can we heal the political divide between families, friends, and neighbors?
The problems of this country seem so large and national, but maybe the real solution is for many people to work locally to strengthen our local government and civic organizations to support all people regardless of political party, national origin, income group, or skin color.
On February 20, we will gather virtually for our annual Program Planning meeting where the members of our League will discuss and decide together which local and state issues are the most important for us to commit our energies. This is the time to think about how we can be the most effective as a respected organization.
What issues do you think are the most important? Do you have time to help us advocate or educate on these issues? Unlike most other organizations, we can choose from a list of broad issues concerned with the environment, voting rights, criminal justice, effective government, housing, health care, civic education, and more. But we can’t do it all, which is why we are meeting to choose our highest priorities.
Thank you, Mary Collins and Roma Dawson, for working so hard to make this important meeting happen.
Don’t miss our Lunch with League on February 18 where we will welcome Michele Lew, CEO of The Health Trust, speaking about the challenges of Covid-19 in our hard-hit local communities.
Stay safe and healthy!
Carol Watts, President