So Now What?
There is no denying the incredible spark the campaign and election of President Obama created in the lives of every day people. Whether it’s sitting in the beauty shop or waiting for the bus, the conversation is always about Barack Obama. And for the vast majority of young African Americans it is our first time playing an active role in civic engagement and participation since the civil rights struggle.
So now what? Now that all of the celebrations are over the real work begins. Not just in the White House and the halls of Congress, but hopefully in our neighborhoods, schools, and cities. The question becomes how to translate the excitement into action at home and sustain it for decades to come.
To be sure, President Obama cannot do this by himself, nor should he have to.
As President Obama said in his Inaugural Address, “[w]hat is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world…”
Simply put, we must commit ourselves to excellence, engagement, and responsibility.
Excellence. For far too long many of us have settled for just “getting by” in our educational and professional pursuits instead of striving for excellence. Some of the staid rhetoric has forced us into a sense of complacency focused more on our limitations than our opportunities. This can no longer apply.
Public libraries and the Internet offer hundreds of resources (many free) to improve one’s educational aptitude in the face of failing public schools. There are online spelling and math tests parents can give their children to ensure that they are learning at the proper grade level. For those of us in the workforce and want to get a promotion or a better job, there are resources to improve your vocabulary and sharpen your grammar. Don’t understand basic business and financial principles and want to move up the corporate ladder? There are limitless online resources to walk you through it.
Engagement. For many of us we didn’t know who our congressmen or senators were until we were scrambling to get tickets to the Inauguration. While Barack Obama may be President, he is only one-third of the three equal branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
Making up the legislative branch, members of the House and Senate cast votes every day without your valuable input. It is not enough to hope for the best when it comes to legislation affecting education, health care, and taxes. Have an opinion and make sure your elected officials know.
The Internet and email have made it much easier to communicate with Congress. All Members of Congress have websites where you can find out their positions on every issue under the sun. There are resources to let you know what Congress will be voting on and, most importantly, how they voted. Here at blackgirlgrown.com, we will begin providing updates on what legislation Congress is considering so that you can make your voice heard.
Responsibility. After we’ve blamed Washington and Wall Street for the financial mess we’re in, we need to turn the focus on ourselves. Let her with no financial sin cast the first stone.
Whether credit cards or “too good to be true” mortgage loans we have all played a role in our own financial undoing. How many of us let our 401(k) statements pile up without opening them to avoid the bad news of more losses?
We must take responsibility and stop being passive consumers. We must invest some time in finding out how to pay down our credit card debt, how to shift our 401(k)’s into more stable funds to minimize losses, and maybe even understand the terms of our mortgage. And then we must do what we’ve always been told by our elders and save for a rainy day.
As Clarence Page reminds us, “[i]t is not only whether Obama will live up to our expectations that matters, but also whether we will live up to his.”