A New Sense of Hope and Possibility
In 1991, “Citizens and Politics: A View from Main Street” was released by author Rich Harwood and the Kettering Foundation. This groundbreaking study found that Americans were not apathetic about politics and public life, but instead felt pushed out, disconnected, and impotent. Back then, they complained bitterly about a system made up of politicians, news media, and special interests that had overtaken the public square and operated with little regard for the people who lived and worked within it. More than two decades later, the conversation has radically changed. In new discussions with Americans across the country, Rich reports in his recent book, The Work of Hope, that politics and people’s disgust with it is no longer the central, dominant narrative in America. Now the endless, often mind-numbing churn of politics lives outside people’s everyday world — operating as if in an entirely separate universe, with its own set of rules, winners and losers, and purpose. Today, people are exhausted by the public recriminations and acrimony that hold our discourse hostage and they condemn our individual and collective inability to come together to get things done. However, in the midst of this negative public sentiment, he also has discovered a new sense of hope and possibility and deep yearning among the American people to come back into the public square to engage with one another, to find ways to get things done together, and to restore their belief in themselves and their fellow citizens. “What people are telling us about is a desire to reclaim a sense of humanity and to tap the innate goodness and potential that resides within each of us,” Rich states. He believes that under the right conditions, people can and will start on this new path of turning outward toward their community with more openness, compassion, and concern for the common good. Most importantly, he believes that it is a path which only will take shape through actions that start small and local, between and among people, in a place where they can begin on a human scale. “The good news” he concludes, “is that people are ready to start.” For additional insight into Rich’s pioneering work, take a couple of minutes and view his “Join the Reclaiming Main Street Campaign” video.