the national day of service

Barack Obama, in case you haven’t heard, has called for a “national day of service” on January 19, to mark the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I know Rush Limbaugh and others will say that it reeks of Socialism, but I think it’s a damned good way to set the tone for his term as President. If he’s going to be successful at getting this country turned around, he’s going to need a lot of us to get involved in our communities and really pitch in… Here’s the way Michelle Obama put it:

…lt will take ordinary citizens working together with a common purpose to get this country back on track. This national day of service is an important first step in our continuing commitment.

Now is the time to remind all Americans what ordinary people can accomplish when we stand together…

If you follow that link in the first sentence, you’ll be taken to a page when you can find out what kinds of events will be taking place in your area. I just checked, and there are a few dozen things taking place here in the Ypsi/Arbor area. It also looks as though you can create your own event, which I think sounds kind of cool. I know there isn’t much time, but I’m wondering if we can come up with a project for downtown Ypsi. As it’s likely to be two degrees outside, something indoors would probably be good… Any ideas?

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43 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    If we were further along with the Cycle-Powered Cinema project, I’d suggest that we could all get together somewhere and assemble the bikes, but I haven’t even ordered the generators yet.

    Maybe we could get together to plan some kind of event, like a community forum on sustainability.

    Or maybe Amanda from Growing Hope needs help fixing up their new facility on Michigan Ave.

  2. Kazoo
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    We could all just meet at a bar and drink. Drive the economy with a bad handle on sobriety I always say…

  3. Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Kazoo beat me to it.

    Maybe a cafe/bar crawl, alternating between the two types of establishment, the better to answer Mark’s recent questions on the subjects.

  4. Oliva
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I had an idea a while back and have been trying to spread it (and imagine thousands of others with the same idea)–it’s not quite the same as the national day of service (an idea I love). It’s simply to do something kind for somebody–such as shoveling a walk, bringing a meal, giving a cold person a warm coat or cup of tea–the morning of Inauguration Day or the day before. It’s just another way to help propel us to a better future and to do it so the kind act has come to life by the time of Obama’s inauguration.

    Yes we can . . . make it all much better. Can, got to, want to!

  5. Brackache
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I would like to substitute my one day of pat-on-the-back civic service for a more regular regimen of unnoticed, unsung good deeds, if I may.

  6. Posted January 14, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    “Can’t we do both, doll body…?” A favorite quote from a favorite movie.

    How bout snow shoveling teams based in the neighborhood associations? We could do the rentals & public areas (and crossings) so that riding a bike or walking to the bus stop in winter is a little safer and more pleasant. I’ll bring my yooper shovel.

  7. Oliva
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    No pats on back necessary (or wanted)–can sneak in the good deed so no one knows who did it. And can keep doing all the really nice unspoken-of things all the rest of the days . . .

    That’s ideally how it would go, but the shoveling a bike path together would be fun and not necessarily anonymous (depending how fully you dress and are covered up).

  8. Posted January 14, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Brackache: dig the freedom thing, dig the sentiment of voluntary all-the-time civic duty thing, but the perpetual party pooper thing isn’t making you any friends. That only flies when you candy coat it with upbeat music. Nobody’s trying to boss you around, take your guns, or put a microchip in your forehead on Jan 19th. Getting people interested in helping their communities who ordinarily might not be is a good thing. Forget the politics.

    As for me, I wouldn’t mind going over the Ypsi Food/Energy Independance benefit concert with interested parties on Jan 19th. I need help; I suck at planning stuff. You will be able to find me at the Corner Brewery, most likely alone, my face beaming with desperate hopeful anticipation when someone walks in the door, only to darken and sink when they go sit somewhere else.

  9. Posted January 14, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I agree with Brackache, why have this stupid “day of service” gig when we should be recognizing the efforts of people who bust their asses on a daily basis for little or no thanks.

    Sounds like a feel good PR stunt.

  10. Brackache
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Grumble grumble.

  11. Posted January 14, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I absolutely LOVE Lisa’s idea. The state of Ypsi’s sidewalks is often sad… We could easily post progress on this too at Transition Ypsilanti which Lisa is a part of… and where we are building links for neighborhood based “community bulletin boards”

    That would be very cool, and fun. And there’d be some grateful old ladies and old geisers around who are currently risking their lives if they walk anywhere.

    (glad you got a second wind on the blog thing Mark!)

  12. Paw
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I like the idea of getting together to discuss a fundraiser for Ypsi Food/Energy Independence causes.

    As for snow removal, I’d be happy to help out, but aren’t property owners generally responsible for the removal of snow in front of their properties? And doesn’t the city have the responsibility to clear public walkways?

  13. Posted January 14, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Great post, hope you don’t mind, but I posted this to our blog to try and raise some awareness and activism with the EMU community.

    Not everyone is internally motivated to “do good” and as lousy as it is, some simply do because others are.

    So, why it’s great that people make a difference daily and it goes unrecognized, I think this is a great idea for the greater good.

  14. Posted January 14, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Clearly, Dude and Brack, having a day of service, called upon by the president, which has already inspired people to begin talking and planning (this thread), in addition to daily unrecognized deeds, is a good thing. I don’t know about you two, but I was planning on doing both. It’s pretty amazing you could find fault in this or suggest it’s a PR stunt. I think it’s a beautiful way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  15. Posted January 14, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I know that snow removal is the responsibility of the landlord. And that knowledge helps oh so much when I am wading home through the shin-deep slush. Here’s the silly thing: I love using my yooper scooper. I’m just looking for more scope for my shoveling habit. Anybody want to join me on Summit Street on Monday???

  16. Brackache
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I will continue to go about (and mind) my normal business.

    Absentee landlords don’t generally shovel their sidewalks, I’ve found. Some have even discovered that if they wait long enough, their tenants will do it for free.

  17. Posted January 14, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    That’s the most hilarious thing I’ve heard all day.

  18. Posted January 14, 2009 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    What’s hilarious Dude?

    You know what I think is a good idea? For you to study Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what he did on Monday. That can be your service.

    I spent almost two hours snowblowing sidewalks and neighbors driveways tonight, by the way, Dude. Drive by the far east side of East Cross and you can see for yourself. I do this every time it snows. I plan on doing something else positve for the community on Monday. I’ll also read DR. MLK and listen to recordings of his speeches. It’s something I do every year. I also like to think about his message throughout the year, but it doesn’t hurt to really focus on that day.

    You laugh at this day of service and day of recognition for Dr. King and call it stupid, but what have you done? Spewing out comments on a local blog doesn’t count. I know I’m going to regret posting this but I’ve had enough of attitudes like yours.

  19. Posted January 14, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Actually, dude, go ahead and laugh. I’m over it, man. Just step aside so the rest of us can make a difference.

  20. Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    I though Brackache’s response to the lady with the lazy landlord was funny.

    The “day of service” thing is just hokey. Think of it, people will do some shit one day and pat themselves on the back about it and do squat for the remaining 364 days of the year.

    Meanwhile, someone is cleaning an old lady’s bedpan every fucking day and getting no thanks for it.

    Obama needs to do better than that. Creating idealized lip service isn’t going to cut it.

    As far as the snow goes, your landlord needs to slide you some $20 bills for all your trouble. I bet you could withhold the money from your rent. Don’t do that shit for free. It’s one thing to volunteer in the spirit of goodwill. It’s quite another to be chump.

  21. Brackache
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Funny thing is, I wasn’t being a smartass at all. I got mad at my absentee landlord this week because he had asked me if I’d do the winter chores for him for reduced rent, I said I would, but he didn’t want to reduce it as much as I wanted or make a good counter offer. So what does he do? Nothing. He waits till we get sick of it, then me and my wife do it for free because the rest of the tenants just don’t do their part… probably assuming the landlord will take care of it.

    So you see, I was trying to show common ground with Lisele’s comment about it being the landlord’s responsibility but still finding it undone.

    I swear, seems my trying to show niceness is more awkward than a two legged dog trying to scratch behind its ears.

  22. Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    You should pay someone to have him killed.

  23. Brackache
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I think that’d cost me more than the deal on rent would save me. Although that’d be a real creative event.

  24. mark
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    First off, I don’t think this suggestion of Barack’s is a PR stunt. I think it’s extremely calculated, but I don’t think it has anything to do with PR. I think he realizes that, if we’re going to fix things, we all need to step up and do more than we’ve done in the past. And I don’t think it’s about just one day. He’s not saying – as I think Brackache implied – “do this one day of work, pat yourself on the back, and take the next 364 off.” I think that’s way off the mark. He wants people to get out, meet their neighbors, and start a new chapter in American history. It may not work, but I appreciate the attempt. It’s a damned site better, I think, than what Bush did after 9/11. He told us to go out and shop. I’ll take Obama’s suggestion over Bush’s any day.

  25. mark
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    And, while I like the idea of shoveling and making it possible for people to walk around town, I don’t know that I’m so excited by the prospect of doing it so that deadbeat landlords don’t have to. Maybe a better use of our time would be to write letters to building owners telling them that we expect them to be better neighbors. Because, even if we do shovel, it’s going to melt, and, before you know it, there’s going to be more. Still, if that’s what everyone wants to do, you can count me in.

    I’ve been thinking for the past 24 hours, and there just aren’t a lot of other good alternatives as far as outdoor winter projects go. Maybe shoveling for a few hours, followed by a meeting where we discuss a big sustainability event is the right way to go.

    Or, maybe we could call S.O.S. or another local non-profit and see if they need anything done. Cleaning, painting, and doing minor repair work might be an option.

  26. Posted January 14, 2009 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    I think sex work outdoors would be a good idea.

  27. Oliva
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Am thinking we could pull off a clothing/bedding drive and then deliver the goods to SOS, one worthwhile thing. Could round up a place and time for collecting and do it fairly efficiently (have a window of time for dropping off–maybe at a place with enough room to be comfortably inside, such as Corner Brewery).

    Could do a cookie (or other food) gathering/exchange, make goodie packages in tins or something, and bring deliveries around to firehouse, senior centers, police. I realize sweets aren’t the healthiest, but they’re what I first think of . . . (Seems like firemen and police like it when children bring them presents, more than grown-ups, so we might want to enlist the help of some very irresistible children.)

    I know these are simple ideas, but maybe they’ll spark other ideas or are fine being simple ideas. (This super-cold weather makes the thought of an outdoor project not very appealing, alas. Wish we had a giant indoor grassy place that was warm and bright, where we could run and play in the winter winter. [Or be in Florida or California or Jamaica.])

    Anyway, I saw this–welcome line: “Dr. King loved to sing”:

    [MLK’s friend] Dorothy Cotton reminded listeners that, for all the burdens King carried in his last year of life, he remained a funny, fun-loving man. “We had a good time together!” Cotton said. “Dr. King loved to sing.”

    Cotton suggested that people who want to carry on King’s legacy of social activism should lighten up. “If you walk around with a long face thinking you’re going to start a movement, nobody’s gong to join your movement,” she said. “You’re going to be by yourself.”

    –King Event at Riverside Church in New York City – April 1, 2008,
    http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/king/nyc.html

  28. ol' e cross
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Night before Halloween, you used to be able to perch in a Detroit skyrise and watch the pyrotechnics. I was living in Detroit when Mayor Archer pulled the PR stunt of calling Devil’s Night Angel’s Night and enlisted the aid of ordinary citizens for a one night volunteer militia. It stopped a lot of burning.

  29. ol' e cross
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    It will be hard, but if no other service comes up, on Monday I’ll shovel one of Kircher’s sidewalks. For the children.

  30. Brackache
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    That reads whistful, turning into regret, OEC.

  31. Brackache
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    The burning comment, I mean.

  32. Brackache
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I’m not arguing against the service day, by the way, but if anyone wants to argue with me about it, I’ll be happy to pretend to be.

  33. ol' e cross
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    It does read that way, doesn’t it? Damn, I miss the smell of Halloween in the morning…

  34. Posted January 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Lisele,

    I think the shoveling is a great idea. Most of the sidewalks are packed down pretty good and time for shoveling is over but just hitting the corners where the plows have piled up snow would be great. How about sending this idea out to the neighborhood associations? I’ll hit a few corners on Summit St./Midtown on Monday even if no one else does.

  35. Mark H.
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Dr. King would have turned 80 yesterday, if he’d lived. He’s now being in his grave longer than he lived above the ground. He died at age 39, and one of his nicknames, used by his younger associates who relied on his wisdom, was “The Old Man”.

    I heard on the radio tonight that in India a tape has been uncovered of a speech he gave on this month long visit to India in 1959, a previously unknown. tape of a King speech — a rare and valuable thing. Dr. King lives, decades after his death.

    I have mixed feelings about this ‘do a good deed’ on MLK day idea. I know why Obama is promoting it, and I would not ever want to discourage acts of kindness or service. But Dr. King was a radical, an agitator, not a mere promoter of simple acts of charity. He was for over turning the status quo, and for ending poverty and discrimination and violence, and for establishing peace and justice on earth. He knew that these goals could be advanced only thru, or mainly thru, confrontation, and he was VERY confrontational. He was nonviolent, but not meek.

    King is often white-washed into some kind of ‘acceptable to everyone’ national hero. But in truth, he was not so popular in the years before his death — he was an outcast in his own land. He was speaking truth to power, and was very aggressively getting “in the face” of sources of oppression. That’s how he accomplished so much.

    I don’t claim to emulate him, or to take risks like he did, or to be at all brave, or anything like that; and shoveling show and helping people are very worthwhile acts. It is rarely a mistake to be generous of one’s time and labor. And reading King’s words, or listening to his speeches, are always worthwhile, any day of the year. We should all do these things Monday. But maybe we can also devote some time to thinking this week about how to ‘get in the face’ of the status quo, which includes so many horrible things that King and his Movement were trying to overcome. Hunger in America and around the world are worse today than in 1968, and the causes of that are structural, not simply a lack of enough charitable behavior.

    Just a thought. Don’t mean to be hostile to any acts of kindness, and performing them this week with King’s message in mind is surely fitting and worthwhile.

    Monday I’m doing things at EMU for MLK Day, with students of mine, at 2pm and 3pm in the Kiva room of the Student Center, should you care to come by and see “The Trial of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Montgomery 1956,” a kind of historical role playing game that students from my civil rights class did in the fall. Should be fun, and it’s one of those pedagogical ‘out of the box’ things that I think, immodestly perhaps, is a tribute to King and a way to teach the realities of his movement that are too often overlooked: He was part of a movement for justice that was OPPOSED by the status quo, not embraced by the powers that were.

  36. Posted January 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    So no one joined me at the Corner tonight, which I find strange since I didn’t specifically invite anyone or say what time I’d be there.

    So I served the nation up a couple of ball-point pen doodles on green post-it notes.

    They’re a lttle creepy.

    Sorry, America. I give what I got.

  37. Jay Daily
    Posted January 20, 2009 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    By the number of responses here, it looks like exactly no one did exactly nothing yesterday on National Volunteer Day. That’s pretty much what I expected. Lots of talk of good intentions highlighted with no results. Pretty much sums up liberalism.

  38. Brackache
    Posted January 20, 2009 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Hey man, I’ll take volunteerism over legislation any day, even if it is annoyingly on the top-down side of things. I’m sure somebody did something, although the sidewalks weren’t the best for shovelling yesterday.

  39. Brackache
    Posted January 20, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Somebody DID do something, yes?

  40. Brackache
    Posted January 20, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Hello?

    Please tell me I, as a selfish libertarian, am not more self motivated to do voluntary civic duty at my own expense than the soci@lists.

  41. Posted January 20, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I did some shit for somebody.

  42. ol' e cross
    Posted January 20, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    BA. I shoveled. No shit.

  43. Nance
    Posted January 21, 2009 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Yesterday, my family and I helped in preparations for some local youth to make the journey to the inauguration. I wish we could have joined them! I’m up later than usual because I am still jazzed from today and was hoping I could read people’s reactions here but I also shared your curiosity with what people are doing to celebrate the event! It is something my parents instilled in me but my family, like many of yours, takes national holidays as an opportunity to participate in our Democracy (participate, protect, advance was my father’s motto). On Memorial Day, we volunteer at the VA on Labor Day we seek to help those lacking the employment we are fortunate to have. Each holiday is an opportunity and we have found it so meaningful to spend our days off (we are lucky to have jobs that provide ample time off) with our three children in the joy of service as we would spending time with them at hotels and attractions. I am sure many readers agree. And many who have less vacation time may simply relax with their children, which is also so valuable a way to spend the time! While I do not classify myself as a libertarian I wanted you to know that you are not alone in your labors to make our nation and to celebrate the call to proud patriotic service that we heard spoken of today. It is a proud day for America. Today I took off work to cheer.

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