Below is the letter I sent to President Obama in response to his words, “I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs” during his Second State of the Union Address on January 25, 2011.
This is my story and my perspective on the impact of the President’s words. You all have your own unique stories to share, which is why we hope this will be the first of many such letters from people who have received services from Community Action, from those who have volunteered or donated to Community Action, and from those who recognize the importance of having a Community Action Agency in their community.
Very soon, we will be launching a call to action to raise awareness of the importance of Community Action and hopefully prevent the proposed cut to the funding that is the life blood of agencies nationwide. Watch for information coming soon on how you can get involved and share your story.
Dear President Obama:
On Superbowl Sunday 2008 I drove three hours from my home in Bethlehem, PA to Wilmington, DE to hear you speak. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity since, like much of the country, I figured you’d be out of the race after Super Tuesday. I was mesmerized not just by what you said, but also by the diversity of people you brought together. I felt hope for this country for the first time in a long time.
Three days later I started volunteering for your campaign in the Lehigh Valley (an area key to helping you ultimately defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primary and win Pennsylvania in the fall) and devoted literally hundreds of hours working toward your election. I canvassed diligently throughout the Pennsylvania primary and, in the summer, was part of a group who kept the Obama office open (with our own funds) on Main Street in an effort to keep the momentum going during Bethlehem’s festival season. For the general election, I became the Team Leader for West Bethlehem.
After you were elected I heeded your call to service by helping to launch an organization designed to work with Organizing for America while also striving to make Bethlehem a better place through community service activities and activism.
I took your call to service so much to heart that instead of returning to complete my PhD, I opted instead to take a grant-writing course and explore the non-profit world. Eventually, I took a job working as a planner for the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley and found an incredible way to help make my community a better and more just place.
So imagine my dismay when during your second State of the Union address, a largely brilliant speech laying out how this country can move forward and resolutely face our challenges, you singled out Community Action–the most comprehensive and effective federal approach to fighting poverty–as something you were willing to sacrifice in your budget battles with the GOP.
With those words you broke my heart. Not for me (I’m one of the lucky ones–I have an education, resources and connections), but for the people Community Action Agencies serve everyday across this country–people who are facing foreclosure, cannot afford their utility bills, are making the transition from welfare to work, who are striving to start a small business in their struggling neighborhoods, who are homeless and hungry. I simply cannot believe that the person I worked so hard to elect as President would be willing to sacrifice our most vulnerable citizens.
I implore you to reconsider.