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"I just cannot understand why a bright young man like you would go to college, get that degree and become a community organizer."
" 'Cause the pay is low, the hours is long, and don't nobody appreciate you." She shook her head in puzzlement as she wandered back to attend to her duties.
I've thought back on that conversation more than once during the time I've organized with the Developing Communities Project, based in Chicago's far south side. Unfortunately, the answers that come to mind haven't been as simple as her question. Probably the shortest one is this: It needs to be done, and not enough folks are doing it.
In return, organizing teaches as nothing else does the beauty and strength of everyday people. Through the songs of the church and the talk on the stoops, through the hundreds of individual stories of coming up from the South and finding any job that would pay, of raising families on threadbare budgets, of losing some children to drugs and watching others earn degrees and land jobs their parents could never aspire to — it is through these stories and songs of dashed hopes and powers of endurance, of ugliness and strife, subtlety and laughter, that organizers can shape a sense of community not only for others, but for themselves.
In late October 1987, Barack Obama and Jerry Kellman took a weekend off from their jobs as community organizers in Chicago and traveled to a conference on social justice and the black church at Harvard. During an evening break in the schedule, they strolled around campus in their shirtsleeves, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Two-and-a-half years earlier, Kellman had hired obama to organize residents of Chicago's south side. Now, Obama had something to tell his friend and mentor.
Obama told Kellman that he feared ending up destitute and unhappy like his dad. "He wanted to marry and have children, and to have a stable income," Kellman recalls.
But Obama was also worried about something else. He told Kellman he feared community organizing would never allow him "to make major changes in poverty or discrimination." To do that, he said, "you either had to be an elected official or be influential with elected officials." In other words, Obama believed that his chosen profession was getting him nowhere, or at least not far enough. Personally, he might end up like his father; poltically, he would fail to improve the lot of those he was trying to help.
And so, Obama told Kellman, he had decided to leave community organizing and go to law school. Kellman, who was already thinking of leaving organizing himself, found no reason to argue with him. "Organizing," Kellman tells me, as we sit in a Chicago restaurant down the street from the Catholic church where he now works as a lay minister, "is always a lost cause." Obama, circa late 1987, might or might not have put it quite that strongly. But he had clearly developed serious doubts about the career he was pursuing.
I wasn't one of these folks who at the age of five said to myself, "I'm going to be a U.S. senator." The motivation for my work has been more rooted in the need to live up to certain values that my mother instilled in me, and to figure out how you reconcile those values with a world that is broken apart by class and race and nationality. And so I guess I have on occasions had to push myself or I've been pushed into service, not always because I thought it was fun or that it was preferable to sitting down and watching a ball game, but because I thought it was necessary.
Originally posted by Dronetek
Obama trained ACORN leaders who went on to do radical stunts and/or hurt people.