Thanksgiving 2016

Practical educational and civic transformation.

Thanksgiving 2016

Thank you to our organizational partners and to the people who have volunteered with us. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for sharing your time, your imagination and vision. We hope that we can honor your trust. To family and friends, old and new, thanks for all your encouragement and support. To our “fellow travelers,” people who are taking risks to make a better world, doing their best to use their hearts and their minds, thank you for the inspiration of your examples.

During the depths of the Civil War, President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Let me use that as my excuse to reflect on another moment of his presidency: A few years earlier on his inauguration and on the eve of the war, he said: I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. (First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861)

How can we touch the better angels of our nature today? This is our fundamental challenge in the face of climate change, the rapid advance of job-disrupting automation, massive inequality, and our tattered civic fabric. We need to build the habits and skills of working together for shared purpose and the common good with compassion, wisdom, and a sense of fellowship if we are to thrive in coming decades.

Positive change won’t happen by itself but it will if we work on practical civic projects that bring people together across race, class and ideology. This is the “moral equivalent of war” that William James wrote about in 1902.

We are all more primitive than we realize. Psychologists and reflection on our own experience tell us that we are all driven to find a sense of higher purpose, to feel connected to people, to feel we are competent and contributing to our “tribes” while simultaneously craving independence and autonomy. Unfortunately, the pressures of the modern world too often lead us to compartmentalize these impulses and channel them into relatively meaningless, passive or counter-productive pursuits — work pays the bills but offers nothing more, buying stuff gives us a sense of forward motion and autonomy that we crave, part of the allure of travel is the sense of freedom and adventure that we avoid at home, and the obsession with social media “friends” too often substitutes for the meaningful relationships that we build working together for shared purposes “on the ground.”

The DC Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative — — and the broader efforts of the Civic Leadership Project are intended to provide an alternative. DCTMI provides a purpose on which most all of us can agree, the opportunity to have an immediate and long-lasting impact and to be part of a wonderful community of people working to make a better world.

I hope that you will consider getting involved in the DCTMI or similar projects in your community to “repair the world.” (If you’d like help starting a tutoring or mentoring initiative in your community, we’d be happy to work with you!)

My wish is that we may all find the sense of love, support and security — those “bonds of affection again” — we need this Thanksgiving among our friends and family to take courageous strides in the coming year at work, at home and in our communities to make a better world and give wing to the better angels of our nature.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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